By Claire Cameron
SEDGLEY Tigers coach Geoff Roberts bemoaned a combination of bad weather, poor pitches and player injuries as his stuttering side crashed to a third defeat in a row in National League Two.
The Tigers, who had seen their promotion hopes end with defeat against second-placed Stourbridge last week, fell to a surprise 14-12 loss at fifth from bottom Otley on Saturday.
The Tigers, who remain in fourth place, have now lost four of their six games since the turn of the year.
Roberts said: “I think all of this is a bit of a combination of bad weather, horrible grounds and a few injuries mixed in.
“January was a funny month – two super wins and a couple of horrible losses and I just think we’ve stuttered a bit since.
“You never quite know the formula, but certainly the pitches are not helping our cause at the moment.
“It was a shocking surface on Saturday and there was a strong wind, which doesn’t help playing rugby.
“But we’ve handled those situations very well in some of the earlier games, so in that respect you can’t make it an excuse.
” The Tigers were again without the services of injured trio – captain Juan Crous (shoulder), centre Mike Waywall (finger) and scrum-half Callum McShane – and they struggled to make an impact on an Otley side who are still in danger of being dragged into the relegation mire.
Roberts said: “Individually, I thought we did okay, but collectively we didn’t play well at all.
“You could say they were really up for it and that they needed it because they could be dragged into that relegation zone.
“But we just didn’t seem to be up to the mark as much somehow.
“The best we played was in the last 10 minutes. It was like we had suddenly woken up to it.”
Otley opened the scoring after six minutes with an unconverted try from Nazir Karim.
Sedgley responded on 22 minutes with Andy Riley going over for an unconverted try and the score remained level at 5-5 at half-time.
The hosts took control of the second half with Stephen Depledge scoring three penalties on 49, 55 and 73 minutes to give Otley a 14-5 lead.
The Tigers upped the tempo in the closing stages of the match and with a minute left on the clock, Tahir El Maha went over for a try which Steve Collins converted.
The Tigers are still are still comfortably placed in fourth with 76 points – nine more than their closest rivals, Chester.
Sedgley are at home to Luctonians on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm) and Roberts is hoping his side will take some heart from the 18-12 success in the reverse fixture.
“In the away game we played really well, so we’ve got to get back to that,” he said.