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Rock stars in Otley's Great Escape II
Sequels aren’t usually better than the originals (apart from the French Connection) but there is little doubt that Otley’s Great Escape II sur-passed their Great Escape I of 2009-10.
Then they won five of their last ten matches to survive in National League One, while this season the Cross Greeners won four of their last six in SSE National League Two North, which included a stunning climax to last Saturday’s match at Hull Ionians.
Otley, who were trailing 33-18 at half-time, left it until the fourth minute of injury time of their final game to score the try that gave them a 39-38 win and the five points and victory in East Yorkshire that they needed to survive and send Harrogate down.
The Cross Greeners’ player-coach Tom Rock got the vital 84th-minute try but juggled the scoring pass from scrum half James Munro, and confessed afterwards that getting the ball under control was the longest two seconds of his life.
Rock said: “There were 77 minutes on the clock when Adam Thomas scored a try for Ionians, and I knew that we needed to win to stay up.
“Then we made a handling error and thought that the game was up but we managed to get the ball back and our scrum half James Munro, who had a superb game, made a break and I supported him.
“But I juggled the pass. They were the longest two seconds of my life. I was thinking ‘Will I catch it, will I make the line, will I score?’ “When the final whistle went, we knew we had got the five points that we needed and didn’t have to wait for other results.
“It was great, and it isn’t very often that we have got a five-point away win.”
Otley finished the season in 12th place on 61 points, Leicester Lions, who lost 25-21 at Harrogate, also surviving in 13th place on 60 points.
Harrogate, who sealed their win with a converted try on full time, end-ed with 59 points in the third rele-gation place, ahead of Nuneaton (50) and Kendal (33).
Rock, whose side seemed to be swimming against the tide for most of the season after winning their opening two matches, was delighted with how his players responded after their 90-5 drubbing at Preston Grass-hoppers and the shock of the 23-week suspension the following week for second row Simon Willet.
After getting five-point wins in their next and final two matches, Otley’s No 10 said: “We have had one or two issues to deal with during the season.
“It was important that we changed the culture, changed a losing men-tality and vital that we didn’t go down, and we turned a corner around Christmas.
“Now we are in a better place for next season. We (the players and I) are having a meeting this week and I will be speaking to them all over the next week or so.
“We may lose one or two to university and work and one or two to other clubs but I am hopeful that we will keep the vast majority of the squad as we prepare for next season.”