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Otley make Hull of an improvement to beat leaders Stourbridge
Otley 13 Stourbridge 12
A desire to make up for a shabby home display last time out against Hull and a hunger to play with an intensity that was sadly lacking in that game two weekends ago propelled Otley to the most notable victory of their SSE National League Two North season.
They handed leaders Stourbridge only their second defeat of the campaign and also restricted a side that were scoring 37 points per game on average to a mere 12, and they all came from penalties.
No wonder their squad of 20 received a standing ovation.
And what’s more the Cross Greeners achieved victory despite being on the wrong end of a 16-14 penalty count and being without first and second-choice fly halves Ben Cooper and Will Magie.
The former was playing for Leeds Carnegie Academy, while the latter was featuring for Leeds University.
This meant centre Ben Fairclough playing at fly half, winger Chris Gemmell taking the kicks at goal, centre Jack Mackie the kicks for touch and winger James Twomey the drop-outs.
“We must be the only team to have a different player doing each of the three kicking disciplines,” said 20-year-old Gemmell, who was coolness itself in despatching the match-winning 83rd-minute penalty.
Former Bradford & Bingley loanee Gemmell said: “I was practising goal-kicking with Ben Cooper late last week and I just wanted to make sure that I went through my processes but to do it fairly quickly so I didn’t get nervous.
“I knew that if I made proper contact then I would be all right.”
In the end, Gemmell landed one other penalty and a conversion from his four attempts, and Twomey also struck four out of five drop-outs correctly to ensure that Cooper or Magie weren’t missed too much.
However, Gemmell doesn’t necesarily believe that Otley are at their best when the sun is out, as it was on Saturday.
He said: “We won at Westoe in the mud, at Huddersfield in the mud and we got a draw at Bromsgrove so we can adapt to different conditions.”
Stourbridge didn’t see much of the ball for the first two minutes but Otley couldn’t reach the visitors’ 22 and the hosts found themselves 6-0 behind after 26 minutes to two Caolan Ryan penalties after Otley failed to roll away in the tackle and got pinged for a head-high tackle.
Otley had shown glimpses in attack, however, and they cashed in when Stourbridge had hooker Stuart Pearl sin-binned for offside in the 39th minute.
The home side deserved something from the half and got it a minute later when the backs joined a maul, flanker Tom O’Donnell being pushed over the line and Gemmell converting.
Ryan’s third penalty in the 50th minute, given against centre Michael Coady for tackling without using his arms, nudged Stourbridge ahead again, but the Midlanders were offside again ten minutes later, Gemmell making it 10-9.
In a contest that was just as entertaining as Ireland v England, minus the Dublin rain, the leaders went in front once more from another Ryan penalty in the 68th minute, Otley again not rolling away in the tackle.
But with flanker Daniel Temm the best player on the field, prop Toby Williams making great inroads into the Midlanders’ defence, lock Matthew Stephens impressing with and without the ball and Coady tackling everything that moved, Otley were not to be denied, Gemmell landing the winning kick after Stourbridge had pushed too early in a scrum.