Ilkley 26 North Ribblesdale 0
After a real soaking on Friday and a warning for more bad weather coming by midday, there was a morning inspection to pass the pitch eminently playable with the help of some judicious sanding by the groundstaff.
The threatened rain didn’t appear until the final whistle and a cold wind helped dry the playing surface to allow at least a modicum of free-flowing rugby.
This was a quarter-final of a prestigious knockout competition which Ilkley have won twice. Both teams were as near full strength as possible giving due respect to the competition.
Ribb’s veteran prop John Thwaite was a notable absentee due to a ski holiday and, as his presence has been a thorn in the Dalesmens’ side for more years than anyone cares to remember, the business of scrummaging went substantially in Ilkley’s favour and indeed provided the platform for the emphatic victory.
It was a relatively comfortable ride for those in the vanguard of the second and back rows.
Not that this was an easy victory. It was hard fought and took its toll on the team with injuries to Josh Kimber, Alistair Monks and Gus Ramsay being of concern for the coming heavy league programme.
Ribb started with intent and, after resisting a promising start by the home side, they put the Dalesmen under some sustained pressure. The Ilkley defence is made of solid stuff and showed no sign of weakening.
Tom Collard, retaining the scrum half role, was called on to clear the lines and finally it took a trademark Stuart Brewer turnover to return the Dalesmen to Ribb territory.
A penalty, a line-out and drive followed by a five-metre scrum gave Brewer his reward with the touchdown. Kimber converted to give Ilkley a 7-0 lead.
Now the rugby started to flow despite the unhelpful conditions. However those conditions did conspire to make passing and in particularly catching difficult as more scores were frustrated by these unforced errors.
It wasn’t long before referee Mr Ramsden was pinging Ribb as they tried to thwart the building pressure illegally.
A penalty and two line-outs right out of the Ilkley text book took the pack over for a second Brewer try.
With their tails up the Dalesmen began to turn on the style and despite a few more unforced errors, they put together probably the best rugby of the match, switching play left, right and left, right gain to put Steve Burns over for a super score.
Kimber obliged with the conversion to establish a 19-0 half-time lead.
Probably understandably they went off the boil in the second half. There was no pressure to get more points or tries for league status and, to be absolutely honest, Ribb had been contained.
It wasn’t a surprise that Ribb produced some good rugby themselves and for substantial periods of the half put the Ilkley defence once again to the test. Even in these circumstances it was not for beating and they held back several promising Ribb attacks.
Ilkley clawed their way back into bossing the game with Ramsay bagging a score before leaving the field. Kimber slotted the conversion to give his side an unassailable 26-0 lead.
The Dalesmen were able to hang on with their own try line untroubled despite some spirited Ribb pressure when their only option was to spurn kickable penalties in order to go for tries.
Another nil on the opponents' scoresheet is of great credit to the organisational skills of the Ilkley coaching team.
So the Dalesmen stride forward into the semi-final. They will meet Yorkshire Two outfit West Leeds at Stacks Field on February 22.
The other semi-finalists are Scarborough and Selby so a formbook result would produce a cracking final.