After a two week break, the Hornets return to action at Leicester Road this weekend against a struggling Otley side who will be desperate for points to maintain their hopes of National 2 rugby next season.
Last weeks ‘white-out’ saw every game in National 2 North postponed but there were a number of ‘catch up’ matches the week before. Sale continued their unbeaten run against Huddersfield and are now looking odds on favourites for the title. The battle for the play-off place though remains as tight as ever. Tynedale’s 52-29 demolition of Stourbridge and Sedgley’s defeat of Leicester Lions left the four contenders within six points of each other. Hornets lie third on 87 points from 23, 2 points behind Stourbridge who have played the same number of games. Sedgley are in fourth spot a point behind Hinckley with a game in hand and Tynedale are on 83 points, also with a game in hand on Hinckley. With Stourbridge away at Sale this weekend, a win for the Hornets may see them reclaim second spot.
The match is no less important to Otley but for different reasons. They lie 12th in the Division on 42 points, just 5 points clear of Blaydon and Wharfedale who currently share the third relegation spot. Both Blaydon and Wharfedale are away this weekend but both fixtures look ‘winnable’ against mid-table opposition and both teams have shown some improvement in form in recent weeks. Defeat for Otley could see them plunged into the middle of the relegation dogfight.
That said, Otley themselves have shown some form of late, having won 3 of their last 5 fixtures including crucial victories against Blaydon and Wharfedale. Otley’s problems stemmed from a run of 8 defeats and a draw earlier in the season from which they are now fighting to recover. Last time out they were up against a rampant Sale and went down 59-5 but it’s unlikely that Hornets will find them so compliant this Saturday.
DOR George Chuter remains optimistic but commented, ‘We need to make sure we blow away the cobwebs in training this week after 2 weeks with no game and limited training. We played well against Otley earlier in the season, but Otley really came back at us in the second half. We need to start well and keep the foot on the gas if we are to get what we want out of the game.’
News from dug-out is positive. Sam Driver is doubtful for Saturday with an ankle injury but there are no other new injuries to report. Joe Glover is available for selection this week after recovering from a blow to the ribs against South Leicester and captain Alex Salt is also available after struggling with a niggling shoulder injury recently.
Although both teams like to play a running game (Otley average 23 points per game despite their lowly position), the weather does not suggest a feast of running rugby. Heavy rain is predicted all day on Saturday which will do nothing to improve an already sodden surface. The Hornets will need to improve on their last 2 wet weather performances if they are to secure the required five points.
Last season, honours were even with both Clubs winning their home fixture. Earlier this season when Hornets visited Otley’s Cross Green ground, they ran out comfortable 15-38 winners. Tries from Luke Coltman, Callum Dacey, Tom Wheatcroft, Mitch Lamb and Sam Driver secured the bonus point win.
Saturday’s kick-off is 3.00pm as usual and with another full house for the pre-match lunch, a good crowd is expected despite the weather. Come along and make some noise!
Updated 13:08 - 22 Mar 2018 by John Tilley