By Richard Sykes
Huddersfield RUFC’s five-match winning run was ended by Otley who stretched their own unbeaten run to 10 games with a hard-fought 29-22 win at Lockwood Park.
There was little to choose between the teams and only two points separated them at half-time but at the end of a pulsating final period, which saw Huddersfield squander a gilt-edged chance to square the match, it was the team in 4th place in National 2 North that stole the spoils.
Huddersfield’s director of rugby Gaz Lewis said: “We were missing a few key players and I would have possibly taken a point. However, we had opportunities to win but we made too many individual errors to turn the game in our favour.
“I was pleased with our set piece and how the newer lads stepped up. The boys put in a good shift and it’s a point gained on the teams above us.”
After a scoreless first quarter, in which the teams sounded each other out, Otley lock Brett Mitchell opened the scoring after a neat passing exchange with a try that was converted by scrum-half Joe Rowntree. Field made a positive response to the setback and were rewarded when fly-half Will Milner notched a penalty in front of the posts.
The game was then held up for 20 minutes following a serious injury to Huddersfield hooker Manny Effiom, which required an ambulance. Effiom was replaced by Liam Stapley, making his return after a 10-week injury lay-off.
Field finished the first half strongly. A penalty gave them a lineout in the corner, the catch was clean, the drive strong and lock Luke Pearson touched down for a try. Milner’s unsuccessful touchline conversion attempt brought the half to its close.
An exciting second half saw play tilt see-saw fashion, with Field being the first team to gain the advantage. They dominated the scrummages throughout the match, pushing the Otley pack backwards or gaining penalties to secure front-foot ball. On 55 minutes Field had a scrum five metres from the Otley line on the back of which No8 Rob Jennings crossed for a try which offered Milner the easiest of conversions to give Field a five-point lead.
Otley re-took the lead 10 minutes later with a try following a move which saw the ball cross the the pitch through the hands twice. Full-back Callum Irving put Clark Wells in on the right wing to round things off with Rowntree adding the conversion from the touchline.
Three more tries then followed in a ding-dong five-minute spell. An excellent 50-20 kick from Otley fly-half Ed Crossland gained them ground and hooker Ryan Gibson powered over from close range for the bonus point try which Rowntree failed to convert.
From the re-start Field went back onto the attack and full-back Tom Hodson raced in for a try down the right flank. Milner levelled the score at 22-22 by adding the extras but Otley were back in front in an instant.
A knock-on by Field from the kick off gifted possession back to Otley, the referee played a good advantage and Gavin Stead cut through the centre for another try which offered Rowntree a meat and drink conversion.
As the game neared its end it took three more dramatic turns. The referee lost patience with Otley prop William Nichols and sent him to the sin-bin and Huddersfield pressed. Moments later Rowntree was shown a yellow card for a high tackle which led to some shenanigans.
When things settled down, and with time almost up, Huddersfield were left facing 13 men just 30 metres from the Otley line with a penalty to touch. Alas there was to be no fairytale ending. They put the kick touch in goal and that was that.
A losing bonus point seemed scant consolation for Field for their afternoon’s work. Next Saturday (February 18) they make the long trip to Blaydon who are bottom of the table.
However, Field will be taking nothing for granted. Blaydon secured only their second win of the season on Saturday. It was a handsome one, away at Tynedale, who are four places above Field.