Scarborough 6 Ilkley 13
Ilkley extended their fine winning run to 11 games with a hard-earned success on Saturday.
A biting wind and a wet surface made it difficult to play free-flowing rugby, so the Dalesmen had to dig deep to earn their success.
With the sides having drawn 17-17 at Stacks Field earlier in the season, this was always going to be a tight game.
Once again it was Ilkley’s miserly defence, the best in the league, which proved decisive as they prevented their opponents from scoring a try for the fourth time in the last five matches.
But they made things difficult for themselves again by conceding a stream of penalties.
The four for backchat were avoidable.
Referee Mr Garbutt took a strict hold from the kick off so it should have been no surprise that he wasn’t going to tolerate any indiscipline.
The concession of pen- alties ruined some excellent scoring chances and also put them under unnecessary pressure at times.
Several Ilkley followers were moved to question how the penalty count against their side can be consistently so high.
Do Ilkley play a different game? Do they play so finely on the margin that it appears they are infringing? Why are the opponents not so profligate?
Despite this Ilkley have got the winning habit and were clearly the better side on the day.
The wind favoured the home side in the first half and an unremarkable 40 minutes produced two hits and a miss for goal kicker Tom Ratcliffe to give his side a 6-0 lead.
Ilkley had mounted the more dangerous looking attacks but had frustrated them-selves and the crowd with poor handling where it mattered and the concession of those pesky penalties.
Scarborough were equally profligate with their hand- ling and rarely threatened the Ilkley line.
Ilkley’s best chances came late in the half when they finally were able to deploy their drive from two line-outs.
Unfortunately the throw to the third was not straight, blown off course by a sudden gust that swirled round the back of the stand.
Still there was an air of confidence growing that the second period would be more productive.
The second half started even more shakily than the first as a rash of penalties encour-aged the large and vocal home crowd.
Some inspired Scarbor- ough play threatened the Ilkley line.
Now it was the Seasiders deploying the Ilkley ploy of the driving maul and worse was to come as Ollie Renton saw yellow for pulling down a drive.
Just when the invincible Dalesmen’s defence looked about to crack, it was Scarborough in their excite- ment who conceded the penalty.
While Renton was at rest, Ilkley built a head of steam.
First the reliable boot of Josh Kimber reduced the deficit to three points with a penalty.
Then a prolonged period of Ilkley pressure interrupted only by ill-judged kicking or unnecessary penalties put the Dalesmen firmly in the home side’s 22.
Tom Collard, deputising for the ill Ryan Cooper at scrum half, made the game’s telling break.
His good work enabled skipper Stuart Vincent to ghost in on the overlap for the vital try. Kimber converted to make it 10-6.
A nail biting finale was in store.
In fact the Dalesmen maintained their superiority until further generosity of penalties late on and what looked like a bad injury to the talismanic Iain McKenzie gave the Seasiders some hope.
However poor handling, great tackling and, at the last, some last-ditch defence kept them out.
The penalty tide finally turned and Kimber put the Dalesmen 13-6 ahead.
Shortly after he just missed another chance to add a penalty goal but thankfully the three points missed were not to affect the outcome.
Ilkley remain top, though their failure to grab a four-try bonus point means their lead has been cut to three points by their relentless pursuers Doncaster Phoenix and Dinnington, both of whom Ilkley must visit in the weeks ahead.
There is no let up to the pressure this week when they visit fourth-placed and much-improved Selby.