National League Two North: Otley 35 Peterborough Lions 5

TANNOY announcer Bob McLoughlin wasn’t holding back in his pre-match messages at Cross Green.

Otley stood fifth in the National League Two North table before kick-off, eight points behind second-placed Huddersfield, who had a game in hand.

However, with all but Huddersfield and Tynedale having seven matches left, McLoughlin was even dreaming of the play-offs, which Otley would have to finish as runners-up to qualify for.

And although Cross Green is a fortress these days (10 wins from 11 this season for Otley), their director of rugby Charlie Maunder is not quite setting the bar that high after their victory over cellar dwellers Peterborough Lions.

He said: “We are a little frustrated that we lost the second-half to the bottom-of-the-table team but we want to win all of our last six matches, although we have Fylde and Hull Ionians to play here, where was also have a tough game against South Leicester, and Chester, Hinckley and Stourbridge to face away.”

If the top six was an ambition at the start of the season, maybe that has been narrowed to the top four, but Maunder added: “We will see where these game take us at the end of the season.”

Promoted last season from the Midlands Premier League, the Lions have been in the drop zone all season, and the last thing that their multi-national squad wanted was to concede a try in the first 30 seconds, but that is what happened.

Otley, who had won their previous eight matches at Cross Green, ran back the kick-off and skilful centre Tom De Glanville picked up a loose ball and ghosted through from distance, leaving fly-half Joe Rowntree with an easy conversion.

Peterborough’s second kick-off went better, but both sides gave away a penalty before home prop Will Rigg needed treatment for a cut above an eye.

Maunder and others were then mystified by two penalty decisions against them by referee Jack LeFeuvre but they were put to the back of his mind by two tries in six minutes midway through the half.

De Glanville’s half-break gave right winger Joshua Hall the chance to score in the 18th minute, and centre Jack Mackie’s show and go in the 23rd minute again opened up the Lions defence, with Rowntree’s conversions taking the score to 21-0.

The Lions, whose side included an Italian, an Argentinian, a Frenchman, a Romanian and Tongan Suva Maasi, a former Yorkshire Carnegie Academy player and son of 36-times capped Vili, rarely threatened Otley’s line in the first-half, and things got worse for the visitors before half-time.

Otley full-back Ben Magee scored a typically brilliant individual try in the 35th minute to clinch the bonus point, running down the outside centre channel from distance before cutting back towards the posts, and Rowntree went over four minutes later, shaping to pass outside before going himself.

Rowntree made it five out of five with the conversions but the scrappy second-half never reached the heights of the first period from a home point of view.

In the 46th minute, the Lions took advantage of a porous Otley line-out defence for hooker Jack Lewis to score in the home side’s left-hand corner, but plucky Peterborough could not then take advantage of two free-kicks in quick succession.

The hosts finally found some momentum via replacement Adam Malthouse, Magee and Mackie, but then kicked a penalty dead in a wind that was trickier than it looked.

Peterborough began dropping off tackles inside the final 15 minutes as they tired but an Otley chance was blown when replacement Danny Adu dropped the ball.

The Lions then found a second wind and almost forced their way over in that same right-hand corner and, on an increasingly gloomy afternoon – thank heavens for the 2.30pm kick-off – referee LeFeuvre decided that he had seen enough and blew the final whistle three minutes early.