Wath-upon-Dearne 17 Ilkley 22
Many moons have passed since Ilkley last visited Wath, but memories of epic tussles in the early years of league rugby remain and the club spirit of this small enclave of rugby amidst the numerous soccer teams in the area is to be admired.
Ilkley were somewhat more comfortable winners than the 22-17 scoreline suggests, Wath netting their last seven points with the last move of the game and Ilkley missing four kicks at goal. Four tries to two better illustrates the score.
Wath’s famous slope has now moved from side to side, as opposed to end to end, as the club finally obtained rights to use the wider expanses of the cricket ground near the clubhouse. After a lively start from both sides, Ilkley were first on the scoreboard as newly-appointed forwards coach Olly Renton seized upon a loose Wath pass and broke through a bemused Wath defence to gain a good 20 metres.
The move broke down, but the clearance kick was well fielded by Steve Nolson, who combined well with Mike Cacchia to put JH Johnson over for Ilkley’s first try. The missed conversion seemed to spur the Wath forwards on and Ilkley found themselves under intense pressure for the next 20 minutes.
The home side even spurned kicks at goal, opting instead for scrums when Ilkley were penalised time and time again.
Eventually, the exchange referee from Staffordshire lost patience with the visitors and Renton was dismissed for ten minutes for tackling a man without the ball.
The pressure told at last and the Wath forwards were correctly and deservedly awarded a penalty try, duly converted by Andy Barass to give his side a 7-5 lead.
Shortly after a missed Mike Cacchia penalty attempt, Steve Nolson could not take what looked like a simple scoring pass, but Wath’s number eight Matt Burrows was flattened by Iain McKenzie from the scrum, the ball went loose and centre Craig Barker picked up and powered his way over for a well-taken try.
With Renton back on, Ilkley were again unlucky when Tom Collard was penalised for holding on, just under the Wath posts and shortly afterwards, prop Isaac Scholes suffered the same fate. Half-time saw Ilkley hold a slender 10-7 lead.
Ilkley started the second half with intent. Johnson cut a swathe through the Wath defence, but the ball was knocked on just short of the goal line.
Wath’s scrum was won, but a subsequent knock-on in the back row gave Ilkley the put-in. This time the ball was whipped out wide and although Nolson was held short, he set up a ruck and then maul from which skipper Mckenzie scored yet another try.
Ilkley were now two scores ahead at 15-7 despite Cacchia missing the conversion attempt.
Wath recouped one of these when Ilkley strayed offside and Barras bagged his second penalty.
Back came Ilkley and when Nick Brook was pulled down in the line-out Cacchia kicked for the corner.
The line-out was lost, but then Ilkley won the line from Wath’s clearance and Barker took a sublime line through some poor Wath tackling to score under the posts.
Collard’s conversion gave the visitors a bonus point with 15 minutes to go and a 22-10 lead.
As the gloom descended, Wath took the game back to Ilkley, who responded by giving away a string of penalties, but nevertheless held out.
Eventually, in the last play of the match and in the 12th minute of time added on, Wath’s Steve Mason touched down in the corner and with Barass’s kick sailing over, the home side got a well-earned bonus point.
This was a much better perform- ance from Ilkley, who tackled like demons all day.
Barker has an outstanding game and it was pleasing to see the Ilkley backs on the scoresheet again.
With leaders Driffield losing at home to Heath, Ilkley now lie a comfortable third in the league, nine points ahead of fourth-placed Wath and just one behind Driffield, the Dalesmen’s next league opponents in the New Year.