OTLEY finished last season just five points above a relegation place in a tightest of National League Two North campaigns.

Only six points separated next-to-bottom Blaydon in 15th from Sheffield Tigers in tenth.

Otley, who at one stage lost seven straight matches, finished 11th with 11 wins from 30 games.

This season, however, it is a different story for the Cross Greeners.

They might not have taken their opportunities, particularly in the first half, of Saturday’s 23-12 derby defeat at Huddersfield, but Otley, who dropped a place from fifth as a result of the defeat, have already won 10 matches and are only six points behind third-placed Fylde.

Otley’s technical director Peter Clegg is in no doubt as to the reason behind the club’s rise – player recruitment.

With former director of rugby Clegg working alongside current director of rugby Charlie Maunder and head coach Tom Casson in a knowledgeable backroom staff, Otley are once again a team to be reckoned with in the fourth tier of English rugby.

Clegg, who also pointed out the influence of experienced back Oli Goss, said: “The main thing is the players that we have brought in.”

Among the newcomers this season are full back Ben Magee, centre Stephen Nolson and flanker Adam Malthouse.

Clegg added: “We are doing okay and we are going to be okay.

“We are a difficult team to beat but we just need to take more of our chances at times.

“We had payers who could take chances before but now we have added more players who can do that.”

Champions Sale and runners-up Sedgley Park rather ran away with the division in 2017-18 but Clegg added: “There is no outstanding team in the league this season and everyone can beat everyone else.”

As for Saturday’s setback at Lockwood Park, Clegg admitted: “They out-enthused us at times.

“We didn’t really take the chances that our forward dominance gave us.”

The visitors regularly found their way into the home 22 via a pack whose size raised eyebrows among the home support, but then lost the ball just when it looked as if they were going to pounce.

Otley, who managed tries by skipper Brett Mitchell and centre Jack Mackie and a conversion by fly half Ben Smith, are not back in league action until January 5, when they host Sedgley Park.

However, there is a triple bill of Boxing Day action at Cross Green.

The main match is Prince Henry’s Barbarians XV verses an Otley Invitation XV at 2pm.

Preceding that are an under-14 clash between Prince Henry’s Grammar School and a Club Barbarian XV (noon) and a sevens clash between Prince Henry’s Grammar School 1st XV and an Otliensians and Otley Colts side (1.15pm).

Charities to benefit are Talk Outside of the Scrum #TOOTS and Prince Henry’s Grammar School Rugby Fund.

TOOTS intend to show that mental health is not a weakness and to get people from both codes to talk more about mental health issues.

There will also be a giant raffle, including prizes donated by former Prince Henry’s pupil, England scrum half Danny Care.