National League Two North: Otley 10 Luctonians 24

IN WHAT was a largely frustrating time for the hosts, Otley gave an error-ridden performance against visitors who kept alive their faint hopes of avoiding the drop from National League Two North.

Cross Green director of rugby Peter Clegg said: "I know it is in the back of your mind when you are safe, but I have to question the mental attitude of some of my players.

"We gave away two tries running the ball from our own line.

"Some people say that we did it to harm Wharfedale, but nothing could be further from the truth – the last thing that we want is to be travelling to Luctonians."

On a glorious afternoon, the prevailing feeling in the first half was that if Otley could only get the basics right, in particular their passing, then their Herefordshire opponents were there for the taking.

But it was the men from Mortimer Park who started the brighter, with fly half Sam Boxhall slotting a third-minute penalty and missing another ten minutes later to the right of the posts before tall centre Francis Kelly spotted a hole in the home defence and strode through it to score their first try in the 18th minute.

Boxhall's conversion made it 10-0, and there had already been a hint of what was to come from Otley with a Joe Graham knock-on in midfield and another lost ball when they attacked down the right.

The worst example of their generosity, however, had come after these in the ninth minute when they carved out a clear opening on the left.

It seemed that centre Oli Goss could almost have gone for the line himself but instead he threw out a wild pass which was in too far in front of winger Alexander Beaumont and was knocked on.

A minute before the first Luctonians try, Otley hooker Ben Steele found himself in space, but Beaumont could not capitalise, despite a weaving run.

In the 25th minute, referee Callum Sharp called for a water break, such was the temperature, but also called together both captains in order for them to pass on the message to their team-mates to cut out the 'afters'.

Otley had conceded the opening four penalties before winning one of their own on the half-hour, but they were helped by the visitors kicking possession away, with most up and unders being safely handled by home full back Tom Hodson.

In the 32nd minute, home spirits were lifted when an excellent pass put No 8 Jack Scott Paul away, and Beaumont was up in support to finish off a fine attack.

Joe Rowntree's conversion reduced the deficit to three points, but hopes of that remaining the margin at half-time were dashed when visiting fly half Tom Jones finished off a fluent attack in the 38th minute for Boxhall to convert.

Now trailing 17-7, Otley again started the second half with an error but they were more accurate when scrum half Rowntree tapped and went from a penalty.

Centre Jack Mackie wrestled his way up the pitch on the right and lock Declan Dunn was almost over after taking a short, hard pass.

An injury to flanker Tom O'Donnell in the 44th minute gave the versatile Will Rigg the chance to enter the fray, and a Rowntree penalty from in front of the posts in the same minute put Otley back in the game at 17-10.

Five minutes later, however, they conceded a try when attacking from deep in their 22, losing possession and never regaining their defensive shape before Jones went over for his second try, with Boxhall's conversion emphasising Luctonians' clear water at 24-10.

At that point, Jason Moss and Sam Cook replaced prop Laurence Sanderson and Scott Paul, but play then had to be stopped because the action came too close to Mackie, who was on his haunches receiving treatment.

Steele's frustrating afternoon was reaching boiling point in the 58th minute when he was adamant that he had not been tackled when he passed the ball off the floor, and right winger Paul Petchey then had to be alert to run Boxhall's kick dead.

Luctonians now had a great attacking opportunity, but they could not make it count, with Otley's defence earning their spurs and then their pack winning a penalty at a scrum.

Otley were then penalised for not straight at a line-out, and Steele was sin-binned soon afterwards for verbally abusing the referee.

While they did not concede any points while the veteran hooker was off the pitch, the hosts were pinned in their half, either by Luctonians possession, solid visiting defence or some astute kicks.

By now, Otley had introduced quick-stepping former Cleckheaton back Cameron Burnhill to proceedings, but a glorious chance to mount pressure went begging when Rowntree's penalty kick to touch went dead.

Decent work by Rigg was undone by another knock-on in the backfield, and then Rowntree knocked on, and their performance was rather summed up when a pass to Petchey went into touch to signal the end of the game.

Otley's fears that they might not be playing Wharfedale next season, with the subsequent damage to both clubs' coffers, were put on hold, however, when news came through that the Greens had won 24-22 at Tynedale.

A win at home to Macclesfield next Saturday would make the Dalesmen safe, and would mean that Sheffield, Blaydon and Luctonians would be relegated.

Luctonians can draw level with Leicester Lions if the latter fail to pick up a point in their final two matches and the Herefordshire club take 15 points from their last three games.

However, Luctonians' points difference is currently so inferior to the Lions (minus 253 compared to minus 130) that Otley's latest visitors would still surely go down.