National League Two North: Huddersfield 23 Otley 12

THIS National League Two North match was a classic case of one side being clinical and the other failing to take their opportunities.

Huddersfield, who started the day in sixth with a game in hand, were often second best in the forward exchanges but mounted such an effective defensive blanket that they only conceded two tries, and one of them was five minutes from time when the game was won.

Fifth-placed Otley, meanwhile, probably spent longer in the opposition 22 than their hosts but contrived to mess up a series of first-half attacks and were also put to the sword by the boot of experienced Huddersfield fly half Chris Johnson.

Visiting prop Laurence Sanderson, one of several on the pitch who were playing against their former club, admitted: “Huddersfield kicked for territory and their forwards really defended well.

“We decided not to kick at goal as we wanted to score tries but didn’t get the result that we wanted.

“If we had taken a couple of those opportunities in the first half then things may have been different.

“As for the future, we need to stop making those mistakes but we have improved since last season.”

It did not take long for Huddersfield to strike as a beautifully weighted Johnson cross-kick bounced perfectly for Lewis Workman – playing right wing rather than centre – to score in the first minute near the corner, with the immaculate Johnson adding the conversion.

The visitors were immediately under pressure again as hooker Joe Graham’s throw into a line-out was crooked just outside their 22 in the fourth minute, but a good shove in the subsequent defensive scrum then showed Otley the way forward.

A Johnson up and under then tested winger Paul Petchey on Otley’s right flank, but he wasn’t found wanting. However, they could have conceded a second early try had home centre Mark Pease not kicked ahead in the sixth minute when he had a two-man overlap to his right.

Graham, seeing plenty of the ball in the loose, helped Otley go close soon after but they blew another chance when the same player’s throw-in to a line-out after the visitors won a penalty was also errant.

“Patience Otley” shouted a visiting supporter, and they seemed to have heeded his words in the 16th minute in a concerted attack which only ended when the ball squirmed free for Johnson to kick downfield.

Otley were then penalised and Johnson, who may be greying at the temples but is still a fine player both with and without the ball, made them pay with a penalty from just inside the Otley 10-metre line.

The visitors then again lost possession inside the Huddersfield 22, and the hosts once more made good ground by kicking downfield and harrying Otley’s clearance kick.

But Otley’s forward pressure eventually told in the 32nd minute when home prop Alex Battye was sin-binned for foul play, and two minutes later visiting skipper Brett Mitchell plunged for the line to score.

Fly half Ben Smith sliced the conversion attempt wide of the far post, and Huddersfield extended their lead to 13-5 when Johnson landed a second penalty a minute before the interval.

Otley’s pack had given them every hope of turning this derby around in the first half but two errors early in the second half perhaps made them feel like this was not going to be the visitors’ day.

Huddersfield’s tigerish defence then won them a penalty close to their own line, which led to an extended fracas, with referee Michael Harris then calling skippers Mitchell and Richard Piper over for a chat.

Former Otley player Tom Hodson was a lively presence at full back for Huddersfield, and the pendulum swung the home side’s way again when visiting centre Jack Mackie was yellow carded for taking out home hooker Mark Chivers.

Johnson’s subsequent penalty, from between halfway and Otley’s 10-metre line, stretched the score to 16-5, and the decisive try came five minutes later.

Workman almost went over on the left after an inventive flicked pass, but the ball was swung right for former Ilkley scrum half Jack Maplesden to cross in the opposite corner, with Johnson again nailing the conversion.

The only question then was could Otley get a consolation try, and they managed it with five minutes to spare as Mackie went over on the right, with Smith adding the conversion.

Huddersfield climbed to fourth, and are only seven points behind second-placed Chester with that game in hand.

Otley, meanwhile, dropped a place to sixth but are also having a fine season and are only a point behind Huddersfield, albeit having played that game more.