6:50am Thursday 26th April 2012
Relegation-threatened Otley are making a last-ditch bid to clear Simon Willet’s name before another crucial SSE National League Two North match on Saturday.
The second row was suspended for 23 weeks last Wednesday by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel for making contact with the eye area of an opponent.
However, Otley's director of rugby Tom Rock, speaking ahead of a match at Hull Ionians that the Cross Greeners must not only win but take a bonus point from to ensure survival, said: “Simon is adamant that he didn’t do it.
“He had to go to hospital earlier this season when somebody did it to him but he is not like that and his suspension was a huge shock to us.
“The problem regarding this weekend is that we have not yet seen the written verdict from the disciplinary panel so we don’t know what we can challenge the decision on.”
Willet, who denied the charge, was found guilty of an act contrary to good sportsmanship by making contact with the eye or eye area of an opponent during the match at Luctonians on March 24.
Former Selkirk lock Willet, who was cited by the home team, has been suspended from April 18 to May 31 and again from August 16 to December 13.
Flanker Daniel Temm was found guilty of stamping on an opponent during the same match and was suspended for six weeks.
The former Halifax player, who admitted the charge, was suspended from April 11 to May 24. He was also cited by Luctonians but the good news there is that Otley had already disciplined Temm internally - by banning him for seven weeks!
Otley went into their last home match of the season at home to Stockport last weekend in far from happy circumstances.
For starters, they had been beaten 90-5 at Preston Grasshoppers the week before, and secondly there was the midweek shock of key player Willet's suspension.
Rock, looking back on the mauling at Lightfoot Green, said: “They were probably the best side we have played against this season and everything went for them but we weren't at the races.
“We had, I wouldn’t say frank but it was more of an honest meeting at training on the Tuesday and the response we had was really good, although we decided to keep Simon’s suspension in-house until training last Thursday.
“However, Simon has been really good around the players and came to watch on Saturday.
“The players have shown great character to come through this and win last weekend. and the good thing is that our future is in our own hands with a game to go.
“I know we haven’t had too many five-point away wins recently but that is our aim, and it is good that Leicester Lions and Harrogate, who meet at Claro Road, both have something to play for in the other key match.”
Rock, who hopes to have Tom O’Donnell back in the pack this weekend, was looking into getting England under-20 captain Chris Walker involved too as Leeds Carnegie’s hopes of reaching the Championship semi-finals have been scuppered.
With Kendal and Nuneaton already down, there is still a three-team battle to avoid the other demotion berth.
If Otley notch a five-point win at Hull Ionians, who are immediately above the fight for survival, they will be safe.
A four-point win would also be enough as long as long as Leicester Lions or Harrogate won outright but if Harrogate gained a maximum and Leicester Lions picked up at least a point, Otley could go down on 60 points because of an inferior points difference.
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