Keighley 6, Ilkley 17
Despite suffering a seventh straight SSE Yorkshire Division One defeat, Keighley’s director of rugby Graeme Sheffield is still confident that his side can avoid a second straight relegation.
They dominated territory and possession in the first half at home to leaders Ilkley, but only had three points to show for it on a pitch that was in surprisingly good condition given all the recent rain.
Fly half Alex Brown missed three out of his four pots at goal in the opening 40 minutes but Ilkley scored a try from one of their two sporadic pieces of pressure, centre Alastair Monks dancing his way over in the 20th minute for fly half Josh Kimber to convert.
Kimber added a penalty in the 56th minute and, despite Brown’s second successful kick nine minutes later, the visitors, who had two players sin-binned, sealed victory with skipper Stuart Vincent’s try seven minutes from time, Kimber again converting.
Sheffield said: “This match summed up our season so far in a nutshell.
“For the first half we had territory in their half and they had two or three attacks and scored a try.
“We can only play with what we have got, and we lost another player today in replacement prop Sam Booker (dislocated kneecap), and we deserved a bonus point for effort - but you don’t get bonus points for effort.
“We had two good sessions with (Keighley player) Tom Rock over Christmas and we seem comfortable in the middle third of the field but we need to do better in the oppositon’s red zone.
“However, there is a lot of rugby left in this season and I am confident that we can avoid the drop.”
Missing full back Danny McGee (school commitments), Adam Horsfall (partner giving birth), tight-head prop Matt Hagyard (work commitments) and back-rower Stuart Inman (shoulder injury), Keighley welcomed back flanker Scott Dyson after a long absence due to a head injury.
Brown missed two penalties in the opening seven minutes but Keighley soon showed that their main attacking threat was left winger Sam Walker after he was released by a long Dyson pass.
However, when Kimber was offside in the 15th minute, Brown gave Keighley a deserved 3-0 lead by slotting a penalty on the angle between Ilkley’s 22 and ten-metre line.
But when Ilkley first threatened, they were clinical, Monks having the balance and the strength to make the try line, with Kimber converting for 7-3.
Referee Richard Bonner (Warwickshire Society) then lost patience with Ilkley conceding penalties, sin-binning No 8 Iain McKenzie for cumulative team infringements and, although Keighley were able to pressurise Ilkley into errors in midfield, they could not translate that possession into points.
Brown’s third penalty miss came after 36 minutes from just inside Keighley’s half but the hosts then needed to defend stoutly to prevent a second Ilkley try before half-time.
Keighley threw the experienced Steve Welch and David Pullen on in the 53rd minute for Jimmy Walker and Shaun Minikin, but three minutes later Kimber increased Ilkley’s lead to 10-3 with a penalty from inside Keighley’s ten-metre line.
Brown’s second penalty success gave the home side renewed vigour in the 65th minute but the fly half rather dampened that soon afterwards by missing a penalty kick to touch, and Ilkley, who were merely glad of the win, confirmed victory with a try in the left-hand corner by full back Vincent that Kimber converted.
Not even the late yellow card that was given to Ilkley replacement Pete Small, again for team infringements, could give Keighley the chink of light they needed to gain a losing bonus point.