Fylde travel to Otley for their final game of the 2018-19 season on Saturday (ko 15.00). Both teams have struggled over the past six weeks with four successive defeats for each. Fylde have slipped to 6th in National Two (North), Otley to 8th. In February, with both cubs flying high, it looked as though this final game might have promotion significance. Sadly, now it’s a matter of pride and final league position. Their loss of four points for a registration problem seems also to have contributed to their deterioration in form. Otley will be looking to avenge a 24-14 defeat at the Woodlands on the opening day of this season.
Otley vies with Blackheath and Preston Grasshoppers for the status of England’s oldest club. It was founded in 1865 and has had a famous history since then.
The last time that Fylde travelled to the famous old Cross Green ground was in September 1999 when they went down by 32-13. They’ll hope for better fortunes 19 seasons later. In that 1999-2000 season, Otley were on their way upwards through the leagues, whilst Fylde were slipping down. By the 2003-4 season, Otley were competing at level 2, Fylde at level 4. Seven seasons later, Fylde were promoted back to level 3 whilst Otley were relegated to level 4. So once again, the clubs avoided each other in league action. The first ever fixture between the two clubs was, however, 91 years ago, in 1928.
For Otley, life in National Two (North) has been rather up and down in the last seven seasons. They finished 5th in 2012-13, 11th & 12th in the last two campaigns. The Club’s Cross Green Ground is iconic, as a location for not only senior Yorkshire rugby but also even higher representative matches. Most famously, this included the North of England’s victory over the All Blacks in 1979 and again in 1988 when the Wallabies were the victims of a North XV. The Club is now looking for a new location and stadium in the borough.
Quoted in the local newspaper at the beginning of this season, new Otley club chairman Paul Mackie said that their potential move away is an absolute no-brainer. “[Cross Green] is dilapidated and in need of constant repair and weekly maintenance. Planning permission is set to be simultaneously submitted to Leeds City Council for both the assisted living development at Cross Green by McCarthy and Stone and Otley RUFC’s new £3m-£4m premises to the east of the East of Otley relief road.”
Mackie added: “A new facility could deliver a clubhouse and sufficient pitches to secure senior rugby in Otley for the next 150 years. We are currently asset rich and cash poor. This could make us asset rich and cash comfortable. It is also very much part of the plan that we remain a National League rugby club, and it is hoped that we will be playing at our new premises for the start of the 2021-22 season.”
Otley’s Director of Rugby is Peter Clegg and the Head Coach is Charlie Maunder, assisted by player/coach Tom Casson, the ex-Harlequins & Yorkshire Carnegie player. They have a strong squad, with a mix of experienced campaigners with Yorkshire County honours and young talent.
Their pack includes star former Newcastle Falcons hooker Joe Graham, lock Declan Dunn, props George Burkinshaw and Jason Moss, lock Simon Willett, backrowers Brett Mitchell, Jack Scott-Paul and Will Burns. A newcomer this season who has made a significant impression is former Huddersfield backrower Adam Malthouse.
The Otley backline revolves around halfbacks, scrum-half Joe Rowntree and flyhalf Ben Smith, the principal goal kicker, fullback/wing Paul Petchey and centre Jack Mackie. Newcomer this season, former Ilkley fullback Ben Magee, has had an excellent first season and is a particular dangerous runner.
Ben Smith is the leading points scorer with 119, whilst Adam Malthouse and Ben Magee head the try scoring ranking with 12 and 11 respectively.