PLAYER-COACH Nathan Smith has been singled out for praise for his work with Ilkley’s rugby players this season.

The National Three North club play their final game of the season at Billingham on Saturday where they will be looking to secure an eighth-place finish.

According to head of rugby Rhys Morgan, much of the credit should go to Smith.

He believes that the former Harrogate forward has brought enthusiasm, thoroughness and professionalism to the role.

Morgan said: “I cannot praise Nathan too highly. We have made good progress this season and it is down to Nathan’s work.

“He is particularly good at analysing opponents through watching videos of matches and developing good game plans.

“He isn’t afraid to make tough decisions either. There have been times when we have had to be prepared to take a step back to take two steps forward.

“Nathan has helped develop new game plans and patterns of play.

“On top of the work he does in training with all of the club’s players, he is still a key figure for us on the field.

“He has played both second row and back row for us this season and has often been on the field for the full 80 minutes.

“Going forward we may well reduce his game time to enable him to do more coaching on match days.”

Winger Lewis Johnston and prop Josh Cockerham are both injured and will miss the final game.

Declan Jackson and Luke Freer are the contenders for the wing vacancy.

Both have been in good try-scoring form for the second team who have reached the final of the Aire-Wharfe Cup and will take on Old Otliensians at Chaffers Field on Tuesday.