Preview: Otley v Harrogate - It's That Match Again

Only Wednesday evening and thoughts are already turning to the weekend. Sunday sees Yorkshire's U20 squad opening their season with a trial match  at Leodensians and on Saturday it's the fixture which has become something of a classic for ickledot over the last couple of seasons: Otley v Harrogate.

Another shot in the Harrogate celebration sequence

In the last two meetings Harrogate have come out on top but the games have been close and fiercely competitive. Previously the two clubs have met when virtually side by side in the league but this season Otley have had the better start, currently lying ninth in the table compared to Harrogate's fourteenth. However, just as the two teams clash once more, Harrogate have found form, recovering from a string of defeats at the outset to a winning run of four. Seeming initially to have suffered more from close season personnel changes, the loss of key figures such as Lewis Minikin and Callum Irvine, Harrogate's squad is finally beginning to gel. The stage is set! As reported previously Otley have also been forced to fill at least two big figures, former captain Stephen Depledge and Canada's Matt Heaton.

Otley's Michael Coady prepares to touch down

For ickledot, the two previous fixtures were memorable in that they produced a number of  significant pictures. The most recent encounter was actually played earlier this year, at the end of April. It was a bright spring day, the weekend of the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race. Doubling as a round in the Yorkshire Cup, the encounter was also the final league game of the 2015-16 season. ickledot's spoken before of the dilemma faced when photographing two local teams - which end to sit? The plan that day was to cover one side for forty minutes and then switch to the other. Didn't quite work out that way as Harrogate had ended the first half well and so ickledot opted to stay at the end they were attacking for a few minutes of the second forty. He was rewarded with a try right in front of him. The resulting picture of the celebration was his second to be printed in the Yorkshire Post. Result!

Harrogate's Connor Ward with opposition above and below

ickledot's written at length about the previous match (unfortunately this link goes to a post originally published on a previous site so there's no top picture - scroll down and the report's there), played on a bitterly cold Saturday in February 2015 - a day in which almost all other games in the county had been postponed due to frozen pitches. The photos from this meeting were memorable thanks to the thick gloopy mud that stuck to each player, rendering them unrecognisable for both halves despite a kit change at the break. The resulting pictures featured in ickledot's book Rugby Union Yorkshire 2015.

Harrogate's Willem Enslin (left) and Jonny Coser peer round the mudded scrum

Speaking of Yorkshire U20s, both sides include alumni from that Championship winning side of 2015, Connor Ward, Guy & Jonny Coser from Harrogate and Dec Dunn from Otley. It'll be great to catch up with them again but also to see who comes out on top this time.

Passing's difficult when you're stuck to the ground

Rather than posting pictures you've seen before and probably got a bit tired of (they're in the posts linked to above), here are one or two from those previous games which were not so heavily featured at the time. Have a great rugby weekend, whichever game you see.