Otley 24 v 29 Hull Ionians
By Malcolm Knowles
Head shaking, error making, Woody quaking, try taking, heart aching, no faking, I's staking (claims to the title), which is nice.
Just what was going on? Quarter of an hour played and Ionians were 17 – 0 down, having conceded three of the softest tries imaginable and looking shambolic. It was Sedgley Park re-visited, made all the worse by being surrounded by home supporters glorying in their teams’ superiority and sneering at Ionians abject performance and lofty league position.
By half time Ionians had taken the lead and by full time were worthy winners. The turn round was dramatic, emphatic, as Ionians subjugated the vaunted Otley pack and long before the final whistle those same supporters were laying the blame for defeat firmly at the feet of the referee, with totally unfounded allegations been bandied about. Mr Davis may not have been at his best but to suggest any bias must pass as sour grapes.
In the opening exchanges Ionians were unable to retain possession; three turn-overs in the first few minutes enabled Otley to take play from one end of the pitch to the other and when they threw the ball wide Jack Mackie found hooker Joe Graham loitering on the wing and he strolled over for the try.
Otley extended the lead virtually from the re-start when Ben Smith stole an aerial ball, as two Ionians players debated who might collect it, and set the dangerous Ben Magee on a sprint to the line. Smith added the goal from beneath the posts and Otley were well clear, 12 – 0 posted on the scoreboard.
Mr Davis’s contended overzealous (to both sets of supporters) interpretation of holding on presented both sides with penalties, Lewis Minikin attempted an ambitious kick at goal, from over 40m, which fell short.
The situation went from bad to worse for Ionians as they coughed up possession with embarrassing ease and Josh Hall raced down the touch-line to dot down in the corner. Smith was wide with his kick but the home side were sitting pretty with a 17-point advantage.
Undeterred by the abysmal opening quarter the Ionians forwards, led by a charge from Tom Peters, rumbled into the Otley 22. The ball was released to Morgan Bunting who launched a long pass out to Gerry Turagabeci, he drew the defence before slipping a reverse pass to Steve Slingsby who jinked inside his marker before diving over in the corner.
The fightback gathered momentum, with Ionians winning a penalty that was kicked to the corner. The initial drive was making headway but again the ball was turned over. Fortunately, Otley failed to clear, with the kick being charged down. Ionians were back in possession, another drive sucked in the covering defence and Sam Crane winged the ball wide for Steve Slingsby to go in for his second try of the afternoon. Lewis Minikin added a well-judged conversion and Ionians were back in the game at 17 – 12.
Minikin chanced his arm with another long-range goal attempt, after Otley were caught offside. This time he struck it well and Ionians moved to within two points of their hosts and were clearly in the ascendency.
Steve Slingsby came close to claiming a hat-trick when he has held up just short of the line. Ionians managed to keep hold of the ball and a series of close-range drives presented the ebullient Ben Bell with an opportunity to barrel his way over for his eleventh try of the campaign, for Ionians third try of the match and crucially for the lead as half time beckoned. Minikin struck a delightful conversion and Ionians went to the break quite unexpected leading 17 – 22.
Ionians secured the fourth try bonus point within five minutes of the re-start, hurrying over from a catch and drive to allow skipper Dave Laverick to break away and crash over. Minikin added the extra two points to put the visitors two scores to the good. The buffer appeared to give the league toppers a renewed belief and they dictated play, with Morgan Bunting giving a very assured performance. Play was predominantly in the Otley half of the pitch with the hosts producing a determined defensive effort to hold Ionians at bay.
Magee continued to offer a threat with some razor-sharp running and it was his break that gained Otley their bonus points. With five minutes remaining Magee cut loose and raced through the midfield before setting Hall away up the wing, as the cover closed in Hall found Roundtree in support and he dived over for the try. Ben Smith added the conversion to claw the hosts back to within five points, but it proved to be too little, too late. Ionians had to play out a nervous final few minutes as Otley managed to recover from a fast retreating scrum to attack up the blind-side, Otley threw the ball wide but in their haste the final pass was flung directly into touch to conclude a curious and enthralling contest.
All’s well that ends well, so they say. It’s the sort of remark that can only be made after a result like that. It certainly wasn’t entering anyone’s thoughts after a quarter of an hour, but it all came out well, in the end. Hoppers next up at BP, hope to see you there.