Ilkley 14 West Leeds 0

Whilst this was arguably Ilkley’s least attractive performance of the year in front of a large and increasingly agitated crowd, the Dalesmen still managed to claw out a victory against an enthusiastic but limited West Leeds team and now face Scarborough in the final.

That the half-time score was 0-0 spoke volumes about the tenacity of both sides’ defences, but in particular, Ilkley’s inability to make any impression whatsoever on the visitors, despite their obvious edge in most areas of play.

Winning ugly is said to be the sign of a good team and Ilkley certainly did their best to prove the veracity of this adage.

West Leeds clearly hadn’t come to Wharfedale just for the views and took the game to Ilkley from the word go.

These upfront tactics clearly rattled the home side, which went through the entire lexicon of unforced errors, as nothing seemed to go right until well into the second half.

Coupled with an astounding 18-5 penalty difference in West Leeds’ favour, it was a wonder that coach Rhys Morgan and skipper Stuart Vincent didn’t lose their cool.

On the contrary in fact, despite some astonishingly sloppy play, Ilkley never panicked and in the clubhouse afterwards, Morgan expressed his satisfaction of a job well done. The day was cold and windy, with what looked like a bone-dry pitch and the wind clearly did not help with line-out throws or passing in general.

West Leeds made their intentions known with some aggressive tack-ling. They also retained possession well and in Dean Breakwell, had a young stand-off with a great boot.

Ilkley might have scored four tries in the half, as their backs looked far more threatening than their opposition’s, but each of these moves led to nothing – let down by a forward pass, a knock-on, crossing in the centre and holding on too long.

Ilkley started the second half in much the same fashion and almost immediately found themselves defending in their own 22.

After they had cleared their lines from this particular attack, things started to improve.

Josh Kimber, who had taken an early knock, started to make the breaks, ably assisted by scrum-half Ryan Cooper.

West Leeds defended well and were helped by another couple of knocks-on. From the scrum after the second of these, centre Sam Neave broke away and made 50m before the scrambling Ilkley defence ensured he got no further than the 22.

That was it from the visitors though and Ilkley finally got the game by the scruff of its neck and turned on the power. Steve Burns crashed over from short range after 15 minutes following great work by the Ilkley pack, when Stewart Brewer was stopped a couple of metres from the line. Kimber’s conversion made it 7-0 A couple more promising Ilkley breaks came to nothing, but then as West Leeds were clearly tiring, full-back Keir Breakwell knocked on.

From the scrum, Cooper broke left and fed Kimber. The ball flashed through Alastair Monks’ hands on to J-H Johnson, who still had two men to beat, which he duly did with some style, scoring in the corner.

Kimber’s magnificent touchline conversion made it 14-0 To their credit, West Leeds came back at Ilkley and eventually found themselves in Ilkley’s 22, but they were unable to make any further headway and the match ended with the Ilkley players satisfied with their win, but surely wondering why it was such hard work.

Speculation has been rife that if Ilkley do win the Shield, but are also promoted, that they will not be able to go into the RFU Intermediate Cup.

It’s a small price to pay if they secure a place in North East One.