Hoppers so close
Otley 20 Preston Grasshoppers 18For the second week running, Hoppers came within a whisker of an away win but left with just a losing bonus point.
Head coach Garth Dew said: “It is extremely frustrating. Again there were positives – we edged it in the tight and there was no lack of effort but we made too many mistakes at crucial times, twice leading to opposition scores.
“We also lost a lot of ‘small battles’ at the breakdown which had an effect. We came back well but better game management would have won a tight game.”
Hoppers started well with some good forward drives and useful box kicks from debutant loan scrum half Jack Harrison.
And the pressure told as Lewis Allen’s penalty took the lead. Struggling in the tight, Otley were forced to rely on pick-ups by influential No.8 Watson and were obviously intent on moving the ball wide via a lively set of backs.
After 20 minutes, a surge from flanker Scott-Paul made ground and fast hands put winger Wood in at the corner for an unconverted try.
But Hoppers responded immediately and, after some strong carries from centres Billy Woof and Sam Russell stretched the defence, Allen was over wide out but was wide with the conversion.
Lock Ally Murray was then yellow carded but, undeterred, Hoppers kept the pressure on and, after Phil Mills had won an important turnover, Russell broke the tackle and fed Charlie Hough who bulldozed his way over to increase the lead.
But with half-time looming, a mix-up and unforced error receiving the kick-off surrendered possession and Otley took full advantage, scrum-half Johnson touching down and a successful kick reduced the deficit to 12-13 at the break.
From the restart, the home side stepped up a gear and dominated possession with only sturdy defence keeping them at bay until the pressure told and prop Rigg was driven over.
Full-back Hodgson missed the kick but was successful with a penalty after further pressure to extend the lead to 20-13.
In the last quarter, Hoppers at last got hands on the ball and after a half-break by replacement Niall Crosley, fellow replacement Olly Viney showed vintage form in rounding his man to touch down wide out but Allen’s conversion drifted wide.
Hoppers battled away for the fourth try for the last 10 minutes against some desperate defence when perhaps a drop-goal option could have taken the spoils.