Heath 27 Ilkley 21
Ilkley seem to have the unfortunate habit of coming up against teams running into form Before Christmas it was Dinnington and last week it was Driffield, now Heath can be added to that list.
All three have inflicted defeats on the Dalesmen to dent their promotion challenge.
Heath are arguably the current in-form team in Yorkshire One having won five of their last six matches, including an outstanding away win at Driffield.
With Ilkley were not able to select, as is the case pretty much most Saturdays, their strongest side, it was always going to be a tough test,but the Stacks Field boys came very close to pulling off a memorable win.
The first 20 minutes, with Ilkley playing up the gentle slope, saw them under pressure against an outfit who meant business.
It seemed that Ilkley had not really shaken off the effects of the festive break and it came as no surprise when Heath scored an unconverted try to take a 5-0 lead.
This was followed by and at 8-0 a lesser side would have potentially folded against a team playing aggressive, powerful and confident rugby.
However, Ilkley had the best of the remainder of the first half. A very skilful individual try by Steve Nolson made the score 8-5 and then Mike Cachia, who had earlier missed two moderately difficult penalties, slotted his third attempt and the hal- time score was 8-8.
A betting man would have been tempted to put money on an Ilkley victory as the away side was now playing the second half downhill.
The Stacks Fiedl scrum machine immediately took play into the opposition 22, Heath were penalised and Mike Cachia calmly kicked his second penalty to make the score 11-8. The game was well and truly on.
Heath were not in the mood to relinquish their title of the Yorkshire One form side and came storming back to put Ilkley under pressure.
Then followed a mad ten minute period when Ilkley were reduced to 13 men as Ollie Renton and Iain McKenzie were yellow carded.
Under enormous pressure the away side conceded a penalty try. This was the defining period of the match which cost Ilkley their opportunity to win the game.
Heath now had the bit between their teeth. However to give Ilkley their credit, once back to 15 men, they were always in the game even though Heath had extended their lead to 27-11.
The last ten minutes belonged to Ilkley. Mckenzie scored one of his trade-mark rolling maul tries, beautifully converted by the class act Cachia, who then kicked his third penalty to make it 27- 21 with a few minutes of injury time to play.
Ilkley attacked Heath like lions in the last few moments of the game, but unfortunately ran out of time. The Stacks Field outfit’s one consolation was the bonus point they were able to salvage from the game.
This was a match that Ilkley could have won, but the ten-minute period in the second half proved costly.
There is no question about it, Ilkley can play good quality rugby, however they must learn two things.
Firstly Ilkley must play good quality rugby for 80 minutes, not in fits and starts, and secondly theymust dramatically reduce the penalty count. Once these two issues are addressed Ilkley will be a formidable side.
Ilkley now have two consecutive league games at Stacks Field and that gives them a chance to make up lost ground.
A second place play off position is still achievable, however the team need to get on a winning streak and there is no time for any further slip ups.
Reduce the penalty count, play with the winning confidence that was abundant in 2012 and Ilkley will finish the season well.