As the game moved into injury time, Otley were 18-11 ahead and Harrogate counted themselves extremely lucky to have salvaged a bonus point......
However, this was not to be. In the last move of the match, yet another unforced, midfield fumble gifted possession to replacement Otley back, Oliver Richards. He ran through unopposed to score under the posts and Christian Georgiou’s conversion gave Otley a well deserved, bonus point win.
Harrogate’s already understrength backs were further weakened when Sam Bottomley failed a late fitness test just before the kick-off. However Harrogate pressed from the start and earned an attacking scrum from which Otley were penalised. This led to Toby Quarendon kicking the visitors into a 3 point lead in the 1st minute. The Harrogate offensive continued but Otley’s defence and an almost unbelievable series of Harrogate handling errors denied them a further score.
Evergreen Otley lock forward, Howard Parr, rallied their pack and centre, Michael Coady made skilful use of an increasing supply of good ball. Georgiou failed to equalize with an attempted penalty but another Harrogate offside offence gave him a second opportunity which he gratefully accepted.
This led to a spate of 3 Otley tries in 9 minutes. First, Coady scythed through the Harrogate midfield and a well timed pass put winger, James Wood over in the Corner. Parr tore into Harrogate’s defence from the restart and the ball was quickly released to opposite winger, James Twomey on the halfway line. He had enough pace and skill to reach the try line without a finger being laid on him. The next try came from No8, Luke Watts, who drove over from a 5 metre scrum.
Harrogate continued with their attacking brand of rugby, urged on by their inspirational No8, Tim Heaton. Although continued handling errors ruined several promising situations, Quarendon kicked a second penalty to punish an Otley spear tackle. On the stroke of half time, prop Jimmy Browne made a thunderous break and gave Quarendon what should have been a scoring pass. Needless to say, it was knocked on.
Harrogate certainly played better in the second half though the errors still abounded. An Otley offside offence led to a Harrogate penalty and an attacking line-out. Replacement forward, Ryan Peacey tucked in behind the resulting driving maul to score a trademark try.
Both sides had scoring opportunities in the remaining 15 minutes and Harrogate’s best chance came from a quickly taken Heaton tap penalty. Replacement hooker, Aarin Yorke sped past 2 defenders but was eventually forced into touch. Otley’s line out throw was squint, Harrogate’s scrum led to the ball being passed along the line and the catastrophic final knock on.
Otley: Georgiou, Twomey, Harris, Coady, Wood. Rock, Munro, Blades, Steele, Tennet, Parr, Willet, Williams, Temm, Watts. Replacements:- McMillan, Mobbs, Matthews, Henry, Richards
Harrogate: Smithies, Minikin, Ellison, Quarendon, Heylings, Davies, Wickham, Bergmanas, Maycock, Browne, Harvey, S Brady, Beaumont, Tyson, Heaton. Replacement:- Dench, Yorke, Wilson, Peacey, Fraser.
Referee: Matt Daubney (RFU)
Match report by Bill Barrack