1:05pm Thursday 13th March 2014
STOURBRIDGE continued to put pressure on their title rivals with victory over Otley.
The win last Saturday pushed the Stourton Park side up to second in National Two North, just three points behind current leaders Macclesfield.
Though Stourbridge had secured the try bonus point in the opening exchanges of the second half, a late Otley revival brought the scoreline uncomfortably close before a late Nathan Bressington try secured the points for the home side.
With Macclesfield and third placed Darlington Mowden Park both struggling to secure narrow away victories, Stour - who have just five games remaining - turned up the heat at the top of the table.
Visitors Otley opened the scoring with a penalty after Tom Jarvis was caught in possession and penalised in his own half. A heavy early penalty count made both sides struggle for early momentum, but after a set of forward drives in the Otley 22 it was fly half Gary Dipple who sidestepped a defender to score the opening try.
Mark Ireland hit back with another Otley penalty when a defender went off his feet at the tackle, but then Dipple secured a second try with a well-executed loop move to open up Otley’s midfield defences.
The visitors secured the restart kick but were turned over in contact, the alert Steff Shillingford feeding the ball to Bressington who chipped forward, regathered and outpaced the cover to score in the corner to make it 17-6 at half time.
Otley tried to run the restart but again lost the ball in contact, Stourbridge working the phases in the counter before fullback Jarvis was brought down just short of the line. Scrum half Pete White stepped inside the stretched defences to put flanker Nigel Mukarati clean through to score the bonus point fourth try.
Otley weren’t finished though and struck back by securing a strike against the head in a midfield scrum. A neat kick through the misaligned defence was gathered by winger Nazir Karim who scored in the corner. The visitors continued to press but an overcooked lineout throw relieved the siege and Stourbridge were able to kick a penalty to the corner where a catch and drive was finished off with a second Mukarati try as the maul was driven over.
An Otley attack seemed to have stalled when a lineout throw drifted not straight, but the Stour scrum conceded a soft free-kick that was moved swiftly wide for scrum half Steve Depledge to squeeze over at the base.
Alarm bells rang shortly after when the Stourbridge midfield defence was uncharacteristically sliced wide open and Nazir went clean through for his second try, the successful conversion putting them within a score at 29-25.
Otley pressed the attack but were forced to kick for position, White securing the ball to launch an attack that saw Ben Barkley and Dipple drive deep into Otley territory down the left flank. The ball was recycled to White, who spotted holes out wide and threw a long pass to prop Mark George whose neat draw and give put Bressington in at the corner for Stourbridge to secure another vital five league point win.
They now enjoy a break this weekend before a trip to Herefordshire to take on Luctonians. The next home game is the crucial encounter with fellow contenders Darlington Mowden Park on March 29. With leaders Macclesfield making the long trip to Darlington on the final day of the season, it is looking as if the fight for the promotion and play-off spots could go to the wire.
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