AS soon as the game got underway, Otley knew they were in a contest. Kicking deep from the kick-off, Preston’s winger Will Clapham intercepted an Otley pass close to Otley’s line but fortunately the ball was knocked on.

The scrum saw signs of stress and whilst Otley were able to clear their lines they were still in their 22. Hoppers won the line out, and with a penalty in the bag, moved closer to the centre where Otley infringed again in front of the posts. Rather than take the easy three points, Hoppers went for a scrum from which they moved the ball left Matt Lamprey scoring in the corner which Ben Pearson converted.

Although Otley’s line-out was normally solid in the game, they lost one after the restart giving the impetus back to Preston. The onslaught continued and only a try-saving tackle by Luke Cole pushing their attack into touch saved them. Hoppers maintained the pressure which resulted with Otley being penalised at the breakdown, Pearson’s kick extending their lead.

Otley were able to get Preston into touch, and then worked the ball across the pitch to Finn Dewar who was also taken into touch. Callum Irvine and Gavin Stead took the game forward but the ball was later lost in the move. A Hoppers kick from their half put the ball into Otley’s 22 and whilst Otley got the ball they were yellow carded for obstruction and then gave away another penalty on their 5m line. Preston drove Otley back from the scrum with Lamprey getting his second try.

Now 17-0 down Otley were under real pressure and whilst they did have some forays into the hosts’ 22, they couldn’t break down the defensive wall. Having absorbed Otley’s attacks, Hoppers came back at Otley who were frustratingly giving too many penalties away which added to the pressure. With three minutes Otley were saved when their winger passed the ball to an Otley player just three metres from the line but then the visitors knocked on. Two scrums later and Sam Stott was able to force his way over to the left of the posts. Pearson’s conversion made the half time score 24-0.

Otley had a better game in the second half, getting under the skins of Preston who started to give away penalties. However, Otley failed to take full advantage as too many kicks went dead giving the impetus away. Having kicked the ball down the pitch, the ball passed the dead-ball line bringing play back into Otley’s half. Preston got a penalty at the scrum, but the kick only went 10 metres. Otley took that line out and moved forward, gaining a penalty further down the pitch. Dan Preston-Routledge caught the ball, the pack was able to push Preston back enabling Luke Cole to touch down after 47 minutes.

Otley got a similar try on the hour with Cole again scoring, Joe Rowntree’s conversion adding to the score. The two sides were squaring up to each other and although a Pearson penalty extended their lead, Otley did everything they could to prevent Hoppers getting the bonus point. Their mettle was tested right to the end of the game, when Jacob Browne took an intercept pass on his 10m line and made it into Otley’s 22. Desperate tackling brought him down and Otley were able to hold their line until the final whistle was blown, the game finishing 27-12 to Preston.

Otley’s lead at the top is now down to three points, with Preston in second place. Both sides have very similar runs in terms of whom they play and, whilst neither side would expect to lose any of those games, it is going to make the remainder of the season interesting.