OTLEY are the Aire Wharfe League champions for the third time in five years with outgoing skipper Ben Morley declaring a “relief” at edging out runners-up Burley-in-Wharfedale.
After finishing runners-up to Beckwithshaw in the last two seasons, 2014 and 2015 champions Otley led this year’s division for the majority of the season only to be toppled by Burley at the end of August after back-to-back losses at home to Pool and Follifoot.
Otley, though, reclaimed top spot with a maximum haul with three weeks remaining, ironically against Beckwithshaw, with Otley then down to second after being forced to settle for 16 points at home to Adel.
Every game was then cancelled over the penultimate weekend leaving Otley with a two-point lead heading into the final day, meaning 19 points would guarantee the Cross Green side the title irrespective of Burley’s fate at Guiseley.
Otley picked up the 19 points they required with a no-nonsense eight-wicket win at home to Horsforth with Burley eventually finishing 14 points back in second after a final-day 28-run loss at Guiseley.
The club’s third league title in five years also seals a 2018 double given Otley’s Waddilove Cup triumph – providing the perfect send-off for Morley who will play Bradford League cricket for Farsley in 2019. Morley has been captain for the last two years and hands the reins back over to James Davies having edged out Burley in an epic head-to-head title race.
“We got there in the end,” smiled Morley.
“It was a big relief if I’m being honest.
“We obviously went two points behind with three games to go and we’ve clawed it back so credit to the guys because when the pressure was on we have managed to perform so it was good stuff.”
Morley won the toss at the weekend and elected to field with Horsforth skittled for 109 as Chris Thompson took 5-14 with chief support from Stephen Brown (3-33). Openers Morley (54no) and Jamie Pickering (39) then eased Otley to 111-2.
That made matters at Guiseley irrelevant to the destination of the title but as it was Burley were blitzed by Guiseley opener James Thistlethwaite who hit 16 fours and two sixes as part of a stellar knock of 109.
Guiseley set a target of 235-6 electing to bat first and Burley were bowled out for 207 despite a fine unbeaten 85 from Daniel Revis as Jack Kelly took 5-50.
Morley said: “You have got to give credit to Burley because they have certainly kept us on our toes all year.
“They have just missed out but they have been a top side for the last few years and we always know when we play against Burley that it’s a tough one. Fair play to them, they have kept us going all year.”
Burley finished 39 points clear of third-placed North Leeds who enjoyed a 15-run romp at already-relegated champions Beckwithshaw on the final day. ’Shaw finished bottom but level on points with second-bottom Guiseley who are also relegated.