Preston Grasshoppers’ victory over Otley leaves head coach delighted

Hoppers 27 Otley 12

By Paul Outhwaite
Sunday, 27th February 2022, 9:38 am

In what could be a season-defining performance, Preston Grasshoppers toppled North Premier League leaders Otley to move to within three points of their Roses rivals.

Their only regret was not securing the four-try bonus point, but that couldn’t dampen head coach Paul Arnold’s delight and pride.

“I would have taken that scoreline before the game,” he said. “I asked the lads to show how good we are.

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Action from Hoppers’ victory at Otley (photo: Mike Craig)

“We showed good discipline in the first half and Otley never really got going,” added Arnold. “Even when Otley scored two tries in the second half, we controlled it and got back on track.”

Winger Will Clapham almost claimed a first-minute interception try, and Hoppers went on to a remarkable 24-0 lead at half-time.

Awarded an early penalty under the posts, they opted for a scrum and, several forward thrusts later, saw No.8 Matt Lamprey crash over. Ben Pearson, returning at fly-half, converted from touch and soon added a long-range penalty.

When Otley lost the ball and Hoppers hacked it on, the visitors’ winger Finn Dewar was sin-binned for obstructing the chasers and the home side again opted for a scrum rather than kick at goal.

Almost inevitably, Lamprey went over for his 17th try of the season, again converted by Pearson.

Hoppers rounded off a half to remember when Sam Stott burst over for his 13th try of the campaign and Pearson converted.

After the break, Otley stole an attacking Hoppers line-out, quickly moved to the other end of the field and claimed a short-range try by hooker Luke Cole.

The next 20 minutes were something of a stalemate until Cole bagged an identical second try. Scrum-half Joe Rowntree had missed the first conversion, but made no mistake with a slightly more difficult one to make it “game on” with 15 minutes left.

Pearson eased the nerves with a 25-metre penalty and Hoppers held on for a memorable win. Indeed, they almost got the bonus point in the final minute when Browne intercepted and raced away before running out of support 15 metres from the Otley line.

Arnold said he had asked his players to “make memories” on the day lock Ally Murray played his 229th league game – a club record – and prop Oga Mabaya notched up his 150th appearance.

The whole squad certainly obliged.