Thorpe's brace bags a bonus point for Otley
In a scrappy and at times ill tempered game Otley ground out a deserved win. The first score fell to London Welsh with a penalty after 8 minutes. With the London Welsh scrum constantly under pressure, Otley then began to create a number of attacking opportunities but most foundered on simple mistakes.
The forward feuding flared up in the 17th minute with the visitor's hooker being sent to the sin bin. After some further forward foraging led by the excellent Glen Wilson, a poor clearance kick from the London Welsh full back fell into the waiting arms of Ian Shuttleworth just inside the Welsh's half. Shuttlworth set off on an incisive then arcing run, outstripping the defence before feeding Binns who set up Chris Hall to cut back inside. London Welsh dragged Hall to the ground and then prevented the release of the ball to concede a penalty near the posts. The best bit of the match so far didn't create any points though as Simon Binns missed the kick. He almost made amends from a 30 metre penalty but hit the post for the ball to bounce out.
Otley continued to look the better side and finally the forwards' power began to assert itself in a number of drives again with Wilson prominent. Finally after driving within 10 metres of the posts Otley released the ball for Mooney, Dench and Sovabutua to batter the Welsh defence before a long pass out to Shuttleworth saw him cross in the corner in the 33rd minute to make the score 5-3. Otley then camped in London Welsh's half and eventually set up a good rolling drive that saw Ed Thorpe touch down for his first try, with Binns finally getting the ball between the posts to make the score 12-3.
The pack continued to dominate in the early exchanges at the start of the second half, crossing the line after another drive, but the ball was held up. From the resulting scrum Welsh were penalised, Binns pushed the ball into touch and from that lineout the forwards again drove over with Thorpe getting the ball down. Binns hit the outside of the post with his conversion making the score 17-3. The play continued to be mediocre and scrappy with occasional flashes of brightness from the backs, runs from Sovatabua and Hall particularly noticeable.
The arrival of substitutes Luffman and Wring into the front row enlivened the proceedings with the next London Welsh scrum hurtling backwards, but the following play couldn't breach the Welsh line. The game ebbed and flowed up and down the field with neither side able to make a decisive break. Otley were then reduced to 14 men when Wilson was sin-binned for interfering with the release of the ball with about 8 minutes to go.
Otley finally mounted some determined attacking play and after a period of good recycling a long flat pass from Simon Binns set up subsitute Neil Law to cross easily from 5 metres, Binns this time getting the conversion. 24-3 with a couple of minutes to go and that precious bonus point safely secured!
The Best Side Lost for Otley
"The best side lost" was not a quote from the disgruntled Otley faithful on Saturday afternoon, but frank acknowledgment from the discerning Coventry supporters that their team had been fortunate to win 27-26. To score two tries to nil and then have nine penalties out of nine kicks put past you was hard to take for the Otley team.
Otley took an early lead from a Coventry lineout five metres from their line when an appalling misjudged call let Glen Wilson take the ball unopposed and stroll over the line. Binns converted for 7-0 lead. Coventry replied with a penalty from fly half Matt Leek, but Otley responded with some fine attacking play with Stockdale going close after a fine break.
After that phase of play, the referee began to bemuse most supporters at the ground with a series of mysterious decisions. The first, without apparent warning, being Luffman yellow carded for going through at ruck. Coventry scored from the ensuing penalty to make the score 7-6 after 19 minutes. Some good attacking play, notably from Sovatabua kept Otley in Coventry's half leading to another successful penalty from Binns.
Otley kept up the excellent attacking play when the referee again mystified. After seemingly awarding Otley a penalty for a blatant high tackle in front of the post he then retracted to an earlier penalty signalled for Coventry coming round at the side at a loose maul nearer the touchline. Binns, masterly as ever, put the penalty through the middle of the posts to take Otley to 13-6 on the 30 minute mark, Otley having scored six points while reduced to 14 men.
Coventry then took the attack to Otley who defended well, with Ben Fear putting in a shuddering tackle on the Coventry No 8. After some fierce exchanges Coventry were awarded a penalty some 40 metres out with Matt Leek striking the finest of his penalty kicks to make the score 13-9.
The second half started with both sides throwing the ball about but with Otley forwards dominating, especially Wilson. Another bizarre penalty decision, perplexing both sets of supporters helped Coventry close to 13-12. Coventry then received a yellow card for killing the ball with Binns kicking the goal to stretch the lead back to 16-12, Coventry responding almost immediately with another penalty.
Never a dirty game, the referee then awarded his third yellow card to Neil Law for leading into a tackle with his shoulder. Leek converted that penalty to take the score to 16-18 to Coventry with Binns responding with yet another penalty a few minutes later. Then followed a sustained phase of Otley pressure with exciting attacking play from both forwards and backs. Coventry conceded yet another penalty, then Simon Binns delivered one of his specials. While Coventry relaxed expecting another kick at the goal Binns darted for the line feeding Kyle Dench for the try, Binns converting from the touchline to take the score to Otley to 26-18. Seemingly safe, Otley then conceded a further three penalties allowing Coventry's Leek to set a new club record of 9 successful penalty kicks.
The last ten minutes was noticeable for three things, the attacking play of Otley led by centres Dench and Mooney who were outstanding all afternoon, Simon Binns missing a penalty (which would have made the score 29-27), and the arrival of Justin Wring as replacement at prop. Otley had won the forward battle all afternoon but the arrival of Wring in the front row was truly awesome. Suddenly Coventry's scrum was being shunted back at a rate of knots in total disarray. Otley's forward play was simply lifted to new heights - welcome back Justin!
Overall an exciting game to watch with much for Otley to be pleased about - except that score!