Ilkley 29 Heath 8
With arguably the best side Ilkley have put out this season, coupled with home advantage, they might have expected a stroll in the park against a side suspended in the middle of Yorkshire One.
But visitors Heath had different ideas and took Ilkley to the limit in the first half, clinging on to a narrow 8-5 lead at half-time.
The second half saw Ilkley awake from their torpor and with the remnants of recent festivities cast aside, grew into the game, recording a further three tries to secure a bonus-point win which extends their lead at the top to four points.
Heath scored the first try Ilkley have conceded since early December when their influential stand off Ezra Hinchcliffe chipped a del- ightfully-weighted kick for centre Matthew Hallett to collect on the full and score out wide.
At 5-0 down, Ilkley’s response was swift. Their scrum pushed Heath off their own ball to earn a penalty.
Josh Kimber kicked for touch and from the resultant line-out a rolling maul enabled Iain McKenzie to score one of his trademark tries.
Referee John Eyre app- eared to be targeting the offside laws and when Kimber unwisely hoofed an apparently stray ball into touch, the resultant penalty was stroked over by Hinchcliffe.
A few minutes later, Kimber was adjudged to have held onto the ball for too long and was yellow-carded.
Ilkley were fortunate when a Heath touchdown was disallowed, but they def- ended valiantly before Kim- ber’s return.
Ilkley had played well in his absence and must have been disappointed when Kimber’s penalty attempt hit a post soon after.
The first half petered out with some scrappy play with the visitors 8-5 ahead.
Ilkley made a rousing start to the second half. Winger Paul Petchey caught the kick-off and set up a strong attacking position.
Whilst this came to nought, Ilkley’s forwards disrupted Heath’s scrum and after some scintillating back play, lock Steve Burns crashed over for the first of his two tries. Kimber’s conversion put his side 12-8 ahead.
A Ryan Cooper break just after the restart led to a Heath infringement and Kimber’s penalty extended the lead. Ilkley were on a roll and they quickly added a further try.
JH Johnson chipped ahead and when the Heath defen- der was caught, Stewart Brewer plucked out the ball.
He fed scrum half Ryan Cooper who sent Burns crashing over for his second try. Kimber’s conversion put the game out of Heath’s reach at 22-8.
The remaining 15 minutes of the game were characterised by some exceedingly scrappy play, though Ilkley were well on top.
Their superiority was confirmed when Brewer emerged, ball in hand, after another catch and drive gave Ilkley their bonus-point try.
Kimber duly converted to finish the day’s scoring.
Ilkley might well have scored more, only a couple of loose passes preventing a scoring spree, but this would have been unfair to Heath.
The visitors are clearly well-coached and play attractive rugby. It was a shame that former Ilkley player-coach Hamish Pratt was injured and unable to play.
So Ilkley remain top of the pile, with Dinnington hot on their heels. Wath and York both lost, leaving the table with Ilkley four points ahead of Dinnington and Doncaster Phoenix with a bit of a gap opening up behind.
The next two away fixtures against Scarborough and in-form Selby will provide a genuine test of Ilkley’s prom- otion credentials The Christmas break took some steam from the Ilkley boiler, but the second half of this match illustrated how good they can be and this pleasing return to form surely bodes well for Rhys Morgan’s men.