The blue skies and sunshine of last weekend were a distant memory in Otley yesterday. It was back to winter conditions: very cold, grey and gloomy overhead and occasional flurries of rain and, yes, even snow. The game was definitely on though. The valley of the Wharfe is sheltered by the Chevin and other surrounding hills and can often be a degree or two warmer than surrounding areas.
The pitch was soft and muddy so the going would be heavy and mistakes common. Opponents were mid-table neighbours Hinckley. Since beginning the season better than other local clubs, Harrogate and Wharfedale, Otley have slipped somewhat, losing five games in succession during January. They were obviously hoping that an away win at Scunthorpe a week ago was the beginning of a long term recovery.
It was Hinckley who had the better of an attritional first forty minutes, leading by five points to three at half-time. It was deserved, as Otley had produced little in the way of attack. They'd defended well though, and it was all to play for as the second half began.
Not sure what had happened during the break; a change of tactics or a good telling off? Whatever it was, it worked; the home team was transformed. There was a much greater sense of urgency and, instead of defending, Otley were spending longer periods in possession in Hinckley's half. This soon paid off, firstly through a penalty and then a try under the posts from scrum-half Max Johnson.
This seemed to relieve the pressure on both players and spectators. What had seemed so difficult in the first half came smoothly and easily as Otley added two further tries. Hinckley were able to score a try in the dying minutes but by then the game had gone for them, the final score being 25-12.
As mentioned at the outset, the day was incredibly dark and so the pictures are very grainy. With some it was preferable to do as many in such circumstances and transform the colour to black and white (e.g., the header picture). You can see more images from the game on Flickr.