Yorkshire Division One Ilkley 32 North Ribblesdale 12
Ilkley huffed and puffed to record their third win of the season against a North Ribblesdale side that has so often held the Indian sign over them.
Whether it was the Saharan dust or simply the after effects of the Lord Mayor’s show at Dinnington the previous week, the home side struggled to get its act together.
But they still managed to run in five tries as they secured a 32-12 victory. The win guaranteed a play-off place as a minimum, but Dinning-ton’s win against Selby still leaves the South Yorkshire side a point ahead, though of course Ilkley have a game in hand at home to York on Easter Saturday.
The Dalesmen certainly didn’t have the look of champions about them for much of the match, but once again, played well enough to secure the points.
The visitors didn’t offer much in the way of attacking play, but still managed to score two tries via their man of the match, No.8 Matt Speres.
Tom Collard deputised at stand-off for Josh Kimber, who preferred piste over pitch for this match, but otherwise Ilkley fielded the same side that had outwitted Dinnington.
It took 20 minutes before the scoreboard operator was troubled, during which period Collard had failed with a drop-goal attempt and Speres had seen his kick ahead after a strong break go over the dead-ball line.
Ilkley’s first try came after a poor kick out of hand by Collard led to a Ribblesdale scrum. The visiting pack did its job well, but young Michael Thwaite’s attempted clearance kick was charged down by Collard, who made amends by collecting the loose ball and scoring under the posts. His conversion put the home side 7-0 ahead.
The Dalesmen went further ahead when Pete Small finished an impressive passage of play. Ryan Cooper’s break started the move, the ball sweeping first over to the right wing and then back again leaving Ribblesdale running out of defend-ers.
At 12-0 up, Ilkley found themselves a man short as Steve Burns received a yellow card for barging with five minutes of the half remaining.
The visitors took full advantage of this numerical superiority and when Ilkley infringed under their own posts after a jinking run by wing Ryan Gill.
Ribblesdale opted for a scrum. From this, Speres crashed over leaving Jonathan Richards the simplest of conversions to get his side back in the game at 12-7.
Ilkley finished the half with 13 men when Tom Baxter handled in a ruck and was correctly carded.
The second half started well for Ilkley. With Burns back on and the backs beginning to find the odd hole in the defence, J-H Johnson’s chip ahead was booted into touch ten metres out.
A trade-mark catch and drive was halted illegally and Willie Garth was carded. Then it was more of the same as Ilkley won the resultant line-out and Stuart Brewer was on hand to cross from the maul.
Baxter’s return put Ilkley back to full strength and their next score came as a result of a deft Collard kick which led to an Ilkley line-out.
This time Cooper went open and found Burns running at pace with a perfect pass. The big lock obliged with a try close enough to the posts for Collard to make it 24-7 With Ribblesdale down, but not quite out, Ilkley won two consecutive penalties and took a line-out for each.
From the second of these, Cooper’s clever switch from open to blind left Collard with a yawning gap that he duly took advantage of to go over in the corner for his second try. The conversion sailed wide.
Going into the last ten minutes, Ribblesdale refused to go quietly and scored a deserved consolation try after continued pressure from their forwards, Speres getting his second.
Ilkley responded with a good backs movement and when Ribblesdale strayed offside under their posts, Collard took all the time in the world to slot over the penalty. Ilkley took their time getting their game together, with poor line-out work and unusually slack tackling spoiling their first half performance.
The second half was much, much better and so long as they come away from Doncaster with at least a point, that Easter fixture against York could see Ilkley crowned champions at Stacks Field and what a night that might be.