Doncaster Phoenix 15 Ilkley 15
lkley achieved their main aim in their visit to the formidable stronghold of Doncaster rugby by coming away with two points from a 15-15 draw which placed their Yorkshire One title fate in their own hands. Dinnington’s dismantling of Old Brodleians gave them a four-point lead which will be rendered irr-elevant if Ilkley beat York by any score on Saturday.
Phoenix’s facilities, rented from professional outfit Doncaster Knights, were impressive, as was the welcome to the many Ilkley visitors.
The scene was set for a titanic clash and so it proved with the lead changing hands just twice. Each side scored two tries, one conversion and a penalty and the game was played in excellent spirit.
Ilkley were the better side for the first ten minutes, but failed to register any points.
Phoenix’s Scott Plevey limped off, to take no further part in the game and somewhat against the run of play, the home side were awarded a penalty that Ben Millar pulled wide.
Ilkley were straight back on the attack and when J-H Johnson’s jinking run was halted, Phoenix cleared to their 10-metre line.
Then it was business as usual as Stuart Brewer touched down from the resulting line-out and maul. Josh Kimber’s kick went wide, but the visitors led 5-0. It was now that Phoenix went up a gear and Ilkley had to defend with their lives.
After 20 minutes they were penalised for not rolling away and Millar reduced the lead to 5-3.
The visitors really did have to tackle their hearts out for the next ten minutes, skipper Stuart Vincent’s try-saver on massive lock Ollie Johnson was outstanding..
Having weathered the storm, Ilkley broke out when Kimber took a quick penalty. Winger Paul Petchey found himself in space and ran a full 60 metres before running out of ideas and chipping ahead for his support, when a pass looked a better option.
Ilkley were very much back in the game now and another break by Kimber came close.
Phoenix cleared their lines well and gained a line-out in Ilkley’s 22, but Olle Renton’s steal saved the day.
The second half started badly for Ilkley as a harmless-looking kick Millar was misfielded by the Ilkley back three and winger Josh Clayton cashed into put his side 8-5 up.
Ilkley had the chance to make amends almost immediately, with Matt Lovatt on as a replacement for Johnson making metres.
Lovatt had another good foray into opposition territory minutes later and was trapped illegally in the tackle. Kimber joyfully slotted the penalty to level the scores.
Ilkley came straight back at their hosts and after another nice run from Vincent, Phoenix knocked on at their own scrum.
Brewer was collared on the break, but set up the ruck. Ryan Cooper fed Kimber and the lanky stand-off beat three men to touch down under the posts, adding the goal to give Ilkley a 15-8 lead.
Ilkley once again defended as if their lives depended on it, putting in a tremendous number of tackles as Phoenix stepped up the pressure.
This clearly tired the visiting defence, as Phoenix skipper Andy Ellis finished off a well-rehearsed move under the posts, giving Millar the easiest of kicks to make it 15-15.
As the clock ran down and the Dinnington result filtered through, Ilkley simply wanted to hold on and this they did.
When Phoenix were penalised just in the Ilkley half, Kimber wisely elected to have a pot at goal.
The attempt fell well short, but that was the last kick of the game and both sides could relax with their respective jobs well done.
Phoenix will surely be promoted next season, such is their strength in the pack and their off-field infra-structure.
Ilkley might well have won this match with some better decision-making and strangely at this stage of the season, a bit more confidence in their own abilities.
Now we are all set for the grand finale at fortress Stacks Field on Saturday.