Dinnington 9 Ilkley 18
Ilkley took a major step towards achieving their dream of a double when they beat league-leaders Dinnington in an enthralling Yorkshire Division One encounter at Lodge Lane.
Dinnington's lead at the top has been cut to a single point over Ilkley who have a game in hand on their rivals.
The Dalesmen, who are already through to the Yorkshire Shield final where they will face Scarborough, now need just one point from their last three games to be guaranteed second place.
That would put them in the promotion play offs, but their aim is set firmly winning the title to secure automatic promotion to North East One.
Ilkley's unbeaten run now stretches to 19 league and shield games. That sequence includes 15 wins and a draw in league encoun-ters.
The supporters of both teams were treated to an engrossing spectacle and it was unfortunate that the game turned when Dinnington prop John Marshall was dismissed ten minutes into the second half for a butt on his opposite number, Tom Baxter.
At this stage, Ilkley were losing 9-8 and with the game so finely balanced, it gave the Dalesmen that extra bit of lift and their growing superiority in the backs began to tell.
Ilkley started brightly and their intent to play 15-man rugby was obvious as the ball flashed down the line on a couple of occasions.
It was Dinnington who scored first when Ilkley’s backs strayed offside. and Johnny West made no mistake with the penalty.
Josh Kimber had the chance to level the scores when Dinnington were caught offside from the kick-off, but the kick drifted wide.
Skipper Stuart Vincent made a good break, supported by Ryan Cooper, but when the latter was penalised, West cleared into the Ilkley 22. He then capitalised on the attacking platform with a sweet drop goal to take his side into a 6-0 lead.
Ilkley’s backs got their side back in the game and when JH Johnson was finally stopped 20 metres out, Dinnington infringed and Kimber slotted the kick to make it 6-3.
West kicked another penalty goal to make it 9-3 after John Cooksey was penalised for boring in at a scrum.
Ilkley were reduced to 14 men when Nick Carolan was yellow carded for coming into a ruck from an offside position. This time West pulled the kick wide.
Ilkley’s lightened pack rose to the challenge and took the game down the slope to Dinnington.
But for a poor final pass to Paul Petchey and a third loss of a line-out, Ilkley might well have scored a try in this period, but the important thing was not to concede again and this aim was achieved comfortably.
With Carolan back on, another Ilkley attack was stopped illegally and Kimber kicked for touch rather than going for the points. This was a brave decision and it was thoroughly vindicated when Stu Brewer broke left from the maul and sprinted over in the corner.
The kick was missed but Ilkley were right back in the game as half-time arrived.
The first ten minutes of the second half were dominated by Ilkley. After an astute kick had led to a line-out deep in Dinnington’s 22, a scrum was called under the posts and it was here that Marshall was red-carded.
Ilkley opted for the scrum again and remarkably, Cooper was penal-ised for feeding.
Just like Ilkley earlier in the game, Dinnington’s 14 men played their hearts out and put the visiting defence under severe pressure, going close when right wing Marlon Miller was bundled into touch five metres out.
Ilkley won the line-out and tried to break out, but a forward pass returned the initiative to Dinnington.
Fortunately, they were penalised for a double movement a couple of metres from the Ilkley goal line.
Ilkley then returned to the ascendency and a great move involving Cooper and JH Johnson led to a line-out five metres out. From the catch and drive, Brewer claimed his second try, which Kimber converted and Ilkley were in the lead for the first time, 15-9.
As the game entered its last quarter Ilkley were playing with great confidence to nullify all that Dinnington could throw at them.
They also replied with some great running in the backs and smart tactical kicking from both half-backs.
The final score of the match came as a result of one such kick by Cooper. From the line-out Ilkley stole possession and set up Kimber for a scuttling drop goal that put them two scores ahead. Equally importantly, it denied Dinnington of a losing bonus point.
Dinnington fought hard for that point for the last seven minutes, but the visitors were having none of it and when Mr Lindsay’s oft heard whistle went for the last time, the scenes of jubilation both on and off the pitch were reminiscent of a cup-final win.
This was a superb Ilkley performance, generously acknowledged as such by the home support and one for which every player can be proud of.