Match report: Fylde RFC 24 Otley 14

Fylde claimed victory in their first match of the season
Fylde claimed victory in their first match of the season

Fylde opened their 2018-19 season with a hard-earned 24-14 victory over a gritty Otley squad at the Woodlands.

They started the game like a million dollars, scoring four excellent tries in the first quarter.

However, Otley worked out a response, slowed the game down and played to their forwards’ strengths.

The second half was similarly one-sided but with the Yorkshiremen camped in Fylde territory to such an extent that the home side rarely got over the half-way line.

Fylde defended with vigour, however, and deserved a bonus-point victory for that glittering first 20 minutes.

They attacked from the kick-off with David Fairbrother combining with Ben Vernon to create space down the centre of the pitch before quick passing enabled centre Luke Fowden to make the line with ease for the opening try after just 39 seconds.

With normal fly-half Greg Smith missing, Cameron Crampton carried the goalkicking responsibilities but his attempted conversion drifted just wide.

From the restart, Fylde attacked once more as Ben O’Ryan broke forward and Chris Briers was keen to run the ball at any opportunity.

The home backs moved right and Connor Wilkinson found enough space to set Henry Hadfield free along the touchline.

He raced clear and just beat the last defender to score halfway between the posts and corner flag with Crampton converting to take his side 12-0 up.

From an Otley knock-on in centre field in the 11th minute, Fylde’s scrummage allowed a pick up from Fairbrother who fed the speedy Crampton.

He linked up with Wilkinson, who made the crucial break before passing to Tom Carleton.

He raced down the right touchline before an inside pass saw Wilkinson finish off a lovely move.

Crampton converted once again for a 19-0 advantage.

There was no let-up in the general direction of play with Fylde willing to attack from anywhere.

In the 19th minute, Carleton was on the ball 10 metres inside the Otley half, and with the visiting defenders lying flat, he put a delightful grubber kick down the left touchline.

Wilkinson was alive to the move and it was a matter of whether he would beat the covering defender, Otley centre Tom Casson, to reach the ball first.

He did and skilfully caught it on the bounce before scoring his second try of the afternoon to make it 24-0.

Fylde had lost O’Ryan to a dead leg, replaced by Tom Burtonwood, before Otley’s pack started to establish parity of possession and territory.

From a penalty in midfield on the half-hour, they set up a lineout and a driving maul ended with Joe Graham the last man up with Ben Smith’s conversion making it 24-7.

Fylde continued to attack when they had opportunities and a couple of runs by winger Tom Grimes down the left looked very dangerous but were repelled.

The second half was a different story with Otley dominating possession and territory and hammering away through their pack, with the big and powerful lock Simon Willet always prominent.

In the 56th minute, the visitors earned a reward for the pressure inside the Fylde half.

The pack drove forward and the backline moved left before Ollie Goss picked a low pass off his toes and dived into the corner for a well constructed try.

Smith’s conversion from the touchline was excellent and Otley were right back in the contest.

They struggled, though, to convert their dominance into points with their backline rather too inaccurate with their distribution.

It has to be said, however, that the Fylde defence was tenacious and they repelled the visitors with strong and committed tackling at the breakdown.

By now, most of the replacements had been drafted into action and the play lacked continuity and fluency with Fylde happy to play to the final whistle and their 10-point buffer proving decisive.