Fylde’s sixth away win at Otley

OTLEY 14 FYLDE 23

Fylde gained a hard working victory against a tough Otley side at Cross Green and retained their 2nd place in National Two (North). This was no easy stroll in the park on a heavy, cloying pitch against the obdurate Yorkshiremen, especially after a flying opening by the home side. Fylde were patient and built a score although it was into the 2nd half before they edged into the lead. They missed out on a try scoring bonus point but, in the end, would have been happy to come away with four points in these tricky conditions.

Otley raced out of the blocks on a sunny but cold day in West Yorkshire. They drove into the Fylde half immediately from the kick-off and in the 3rd minute a strong run by no 8 Freddie Watson created enough space for centre Elliot Morgan to force his way over for the opening try. Both fly-halves were ‘Smiths’ and Otley’s Ben eased over the conversion for a 7-0 lead.

Fylde responded for a short while before the home side were again pressurising the Fylde defence. In the 15th minute it was again danger man Morgan, signed in the summer from local rivals Ilkley, who nabbed his second try after a smart move. Once again, Ben Smith added the extras for a 14-0 advantage.

It was as if, up to this point, the shell shocked Lancastrians were still on the coach. But by the start of the second quarter, they began to claw their way back into the contest. Fylde pressed into the Otley half and via a tap penalty good handling by backs and forwards set up winger Tom Grimes to score in the left corner. Greg Smith’s attempted conversion from wide out dropped short but at least the Lancastrians were on the scoreboard.

By this time the game was ‘nip and tuck’ with a fair amount of the play taking place in midfield. On the half hour, Fylde’s pack attacked down the centre and, following a strong run by fullback Tom Carleton, flanker Ben Vernon forced his way over near the posts for his first try of the season. He missed the home defeat against Hull last Saturday but worked hard on his return to the squad. Greg Smith added the easy conversion and Fylde were right back in the game at just 14-12 in arrears. The score remained the same as the referee’s whistle sounded for half-time.

Fylde took control of the game early in the 2nd half. The pack went through several phases of possession 20m out from the home line. With the Otley defence committed at the tackle breakdown, the Fylde backs went left and a long miss pass to winger Grimes once more gave him a chance to beat the last defender and score athletically in the corner. This was top quality finishing by the winger and took his season’s total to 10 tries to date and a 5th placed ranking amongst N2N try scorers. Once again from the touchline Greg Smith’s attempted conversion was off target but his side were in front for the first time in the game at 14-17.

As the wet pitch cut up, the game reverted to a midfield slog in the mud. There were frequent scrummages and the under foot conditions led to a number of re-sets as both sides battled for supremacy.

At this stage the result was too close to call as both squads battled hard in a very physical encounter. In the 58th minute Fylde were pressing deep in the Otley half and a defender fell offside to concede a crucial penalty. This wasn’t the time for tap penalty heroics as Smith pragmatically kicked the penalty from in front of the posts to ease his side slightly further away at 14-20.

There was still much fight in the Otley squad as they freshened up their line-up with replacements. A converted try would have given the home side the lead and possibly victory and they hammered away at the resolute Fylde defence. One move inside the Fylde 22m line began with a convincing looking driving maul but as it was halted the home backs moved the ball wide but it was knocked on at the crucial stage.

In this tense contest, it was only in the 78th minute that Fylde secured the win when they forced another Otley indiscretion and Greg Smith again opted for a straightforward penalty kick from in front of the sticks. He succeeded and in doing so put the game beyond Otley’s reach and closed out the victory.

The Fylde defensive effort was noteworthy as they prevented their opponents from adding to their scores after the first 15 minutes of the game. They’ll take part in many more attractive matches than this but, giving due credit to a motivated and hard working Otley outfit, this was the kind of muck and nettles win away from home which anchors a successful overall campaign.

The Rugby Paper reporter gave winger Tom Grimes the Man of the Match award and his smart finishing was obviously a major plus for Fylde.

Fylde continue a series of really tough games running up to the Christmas break. First up is the visit of Sedgley Park to the Woodlands on Saturday in a huge Lancashire battle. National Two (North)’s 2nd v 3rd clubs should prove a great shop window on National League rugby. Fylde then travel to Dore Moor in the South East of Sheffield to take on the Tigers. If there is a time to choose to play the currently 5th placed club on the very exposed moorland site then mid-December isn’t it! Finally, as Santa is gearing up for his joyful global mission, Fylde trundle down the M55 to play Preston Grasshoppers at Lightfoot Green. This sequence, including the Otley match, will really test the resolve, depth and quality of Fylde’s squad.

Greg Smith is the leading points scorer in the three National League divisions with a total to date of 156 points in the 13 games so far. Three of Fylde’s backs feature in the top 9 try scorers in National Two (North), with Tom Carleton on 11, followed by Tom Grimes on 10 and Connor Wilkinson on 9.

Fylde Head Coach Warren Spragg said: “Well we certainly did that the hard way! We were a bit naive in the first 15 minutes and Otley took some half chances really well to go 14 points up. However, we adapted well to the heavy pitch and played a good tactical game for the rest of the match. We kicked more than usual, but it was needed on such a heavy pitch.

“We’re now into a really exciting run of games before Christmas and I know the lads are looking forward to the challenges that Sedge will bring next week. It will be good to welcome Scott Barrow back to the Woodlands who was a great player to play alongside, and has done a cracking job since taking over at Sedge.”

OTLEY: 15 Nolson (Dudman 40); 14 Petchey, 13 Roberts, 12 Morgan, 11 Beaumont; 10 Smith, 9 Johnson (Costin-Pratt 65); 1 Burkenshaw, 2 Steele, 3 Moss, 4 Mitchell (Willet 44, Mitchell 65), 5 Dunn, 6 Malthouse, 7 Scott-Paul (Cooper 44), 8 Watson. Non-playing replacement: Jackson.

FYLDE: 15 Carleton (Forster 69); 14 Botha, 13 Wilkinson, 12 Rawlings, 11 Grimes; 10 Smith, 9 Lanigan; 1 Horner (Wild 78), 2 Gregory, 3 Lewis, 4 Ashcroft N, 5 Parkinson, 6 O’Ryan (Loney 58), 7 Vernon, 8 Conner.
Non-playing replacements: Stephenson & Briers.

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