On a dry but chilly afternoon Old Otliensians travelled to local rivals Wetherby needing a win to try and help avoid relegation. The game was also being played for the inaugural Jurgen Dunkel cup in memory of a prominent Wetherby member who had recently passed away and whose son had played for Old Otliensians in the 1990’s.
The visitors got off to the worst possible start, knocking-on from the kick-off and presenting the home side with an attacking scrum fifteen metres from the Old Otliensians line. The Wetherby No 8 broke down the blind side to feed the right wing for a try in the corner. From the resulting kick-off Old Otliensians regained possession and were exerting pressure on the home line only for a stray pass to be intercepted and the Wetherby left wing ran the length of the field to score under the posts. The conversion gave the home side a 12-0 lead.
With less than half an hour on the clock Wetherby had added three more tries to hold a commanding 31-0 lead. The half finished very much in the same manner it had started, with Wetherby winning a scrum moving the ball swiftly down their back division for the right wing to score a sixth try. The conversion gave the home side a 38-0 lead and the visitors a mountain to climb in the second half.
With less than two minutes of the second half underway Wetherby added another converted try for a 45-0 lead. Although the score-line suggested total dominance by Wetherby the visitors continued to run the ball at every opportunity and the home forwards were visibly starting to tire. On fifty minutes Old Otliensians made a rare foray into the home 22 and the forwards drove the ball to within two metres of the home line. Persistent penalties by the Wetherby defence gave the referee no option but to award a penalty try and a yellow card to one of the home forwards.
The score galvanised Old Otliensians who started to stretch the tiring home defence at every opportunity. A quick throw-in from Will Cooper provided Luke Cowdell a chance to show his strength and pace as he beat several defenders to score to the right of the posts. The conversion made the score 45-14. Five minutes later the visitors won a scrum just inside the Wetherby half, captain Sam Featherstone broke away to feed lock Jay Walsh to score under the posts.
At this point, the visitors were well on top. With ten minutes of the game remaining Old Otliensians were again on the attack but a second interception from the Wetherby stand-off and a try under the posts effectively killed the game. Old Otliensians were still not finished though and were looking for a bonus point try. Good work from the pack inside the home 22 secured the ball for Luke Cowdell to crash over from 5 metres out and give the visitors that well deserved bonus point. From the resulting kick-off Paddy Phipps gathered the ball and made good ground, before Will Cooper chipped the ball out wide to centre Josh Smith. Smith fed Luke Cowdell who beat his wingman and raced passed the Wetherby cover defence to score a well deserved hat-trick.
The game finished 52-33 to Wetherby, however, Old Otliensians can be very proud of their second half performance which saw them score five tries to two. With three league games remaining, if the team continue to show the spirit and resilience they showed in the second half there is still a belief relegation can be avoided.