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Ilkley take a mauling as promotion rivals punish their errors
Ilkley 3 Driffield 31
Having put in their best performance of the season in defeating Driffield away back in September, Ilkley’s New Year started badly as they suffered crashed to defeat at Stacks Field on Saturday.
Driffield had played two games over the Christmas break and it showed.
Whilst Ilkley never gave up, they squandered far too much poss ession and that led to the home side’s biggest defeat of the season – the only time that no tries were scored or Yorkshire One bonus points gained.
Ilkley started well enough, but were soon under the cosh and when Driffield took a quick penalty in the home side’s 22, uncertainty in the defence allowed centre Tom Wright to score after five minutes.
Robin Kitching’s conversion attempt hit the post, but Ilkley then took hold of the game and were the better side for the next 20 minutes.
The visitor’s number eight, Chris Chapman, saw yellow as Driffield infringed again.
Ilkley persevered with kicks to touch, but the normally successful rolling mauls were repulsed time and time again – someone at Driffield had done their homework.
One of many injury stoppages saw Ilkley centre Craig Barker leave the field for good and skipper Stuart Vincent make a welcome return.
Still Ilkley assaulted the Driffield line, but that final pass seemed always to go astray.
Even when Driffield’s Alisdair MacLaren was carded, Ilkley could still not break through and when Nick Brook found himself in no-man’s land in the Driffield 22, scrum-half Harvey Harding surprised everyone with a nifty steal, followed by a terrific 100 metre dash to the Ilkley goal line, Kitching converting to give the visitors a 12-0 lead.
Unfortunately, Iain McKenzie mistimed his tackle on the Driffield catcher from the resultant kick-off and was carded, leaving Ilkley with 14 men and trailing at half-time.
The second half started brightly enough for Ilkley, but the penalties conceded by Driffield remained unpunished until Ilkley finally opted for a goal kick, duly converted by Mike Cacchia, to bring the score to 12-3.
Then another dropped scoring pass by Ilkley was quickly followed by a Driffield break-out, ending with the concession of a penalty within kicking distance, which Kitching obligingly hooked wide.
Ilkley simply could not capitalise on their possession and when yet another attack was repulsed by the stout Driffield defence, their formidable back line broke out and scored a sublime try, Tom Wright finishing off the move under the posts, after great work by full-back Danny Smith and centre Robin Kitching, whose conversion gave Ilkley the herculean task of overcoming a 19-3 deficit.
This was not to be and Driffield again capitalised on poor Ilkley handling with another superbly taken try as left wing MacLaren finished a sparkling move which the Ilkley backs would no doubt like to forget about.
With defeat inevitable now, Ilkley did their best to reduce the arrears but to no avail.
First Ilkley dropped another scoring pass and then Driffield held on too long and lost possession.
As the dark descended, Ilkley’s defence slipped up just one more time when a Kitching grubber kick was misfielded by the Ilkley defence to allow right winger Lester Bell in for his side’s fifth and final try to seal off a great performance.
Kitching’s conversion attempt hit the posts for a second time.
It is difficult to judge this Ilkley performance.
On the one hand, the team was just about the strongest available, but on the other, the ample possession gained by the forwards was not converted into points and the backs’ defence was at times woeful.
Driffield nullified all the rolling mauls that have become Ilkley’s trademark and their defence was outstanding.
The visitors always looked sharper in attack and took all the chances available, bar one.
With a very difficult away fixture at Heath on Saturday, who knows what might happen.
On the evidence of this display coaches Rhys Morgan and Ollie Renton have their work cut out as they prepare their team for another testing game.