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Knottingley will be no easy ride in Yorkshire Shield - Ilkley rugby chairman Tom Gillon
The opening match of Ilkley’s SSE Yorkshire Division One at home to Doncaster Phoenix may be nine days away but the Stacks Field men won’t be taking their eyes off the ball this weekend.
They face a potentially tricky tie at Knottingley on Saturday in the first round of the Yorkshire Shield.
Knottingley were relegated from Yorkshire Division One last season but Ilkley’s rugby chairman Tom Gillon knows how difficult it will be to turn Knottingley over on their own patch at Howard’s Field.
Ilkley only won there 31-26 last October, while the home team claimed the scalps of North Ribblesdale, Barnsley, Old Brodleians, Scarborough and Heath.
Gillon said: “We shouldn’t read anything into the fact that Knottingley are in Yorkshire Division Two or that they have lost their talisman from last season in former Morley No 8 Craig Field.
“It is a tough place to win at and they would like nothing better than to turn us over. They and their spectators can be, shall we say, very committed.
“I don’t expect either team will be at full strength due to holidays and cricket etc – we are missing one or two players, including Ollie Renton – but we can cover in the forwards and we will cope in the backs.
“However, this is a competition that we have made a short-term target as it is our ticket to a return to Twickenham.
“The Yorkshire RFU have sensibly made it mandatory to play the opening rounds on the last Saturday in August, unless clubs have a very good reason.
“Apart from being a good warm-up for the first league match, it also takes the pressure off later rounds of the cup, shield and trophy.
“If we win, our next scheduled match is not until November.”
Ilkley have an unbeaten record in pre-season, winning 36-12 at Old Grovians and 78-14 at home to Otley Saracens.
Scorers for Ilkley in their 12-try romp against Otley’s second string were Stuart Vincent (2), Elliott Morgan (2), Alastair Monks, Paul Petchey, Iain Mackenzie, Jon Hutchinson, Stewart Brewer, Pete Small and Steve Burns, plus a penalty try.
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