Ilkley 49 York 7
After a couple of slightly off-colour performances, Ilkley saved their best till last and an outstanding team effort earned the Dalesmen the Yorkshire One title, following a scintillating display of running rugby at Stacks Field.
The hosts ran in eight tries and there was a hat-trick for winger JH Johnson and two from stand-off Josh Kimber, the latter also notching a penalty and three conversions. A regulation try for Stuart Brewer and one each from Paul Petchey and Elliot Morgan completed the scoring.
Ilkley knew from the start what they had to do and they set about it in a controlled manner, always trying to play their attacking game in their opponents' half. This was at times a little frustrating to watch, but there is absolutely no doubt that Rhys Morgan’s meticulous planning has been the main reason for Ilkley’s success this season.
An early Kimber penalty steadied the nerves and whilst the opening ten minutes were all Ilkley, York demonstrated they were no slouches when they broke out of defence and reached the Ilkley 22 before their winger was stopped by a crunching tackle from Petchey. A steal by the outstanding Pete Small saw Ilkley advance into the York 22, only to knock on.
York’s relief was short-lived, as the Ilkley front row of Tom Baxter, Stevie Graham and John Cooksey took one against the head and Johnson was over in the corner, courtesy of Brewer and Kimber, whose conversion attempt hit the post.
Ilkley went further ahead when skipper Stuart Vincent fielded a York clearance and made good ground before setting up the maul and from this, the ball was spun out left and found Brewer at pace. Kimber’s fine conversion meant the Dalesmen were 15-0 up.
York then showed that they had not come to be mere spectators and put Ilkley under some pressure for a good ten minutes, but the home defence – outstanding all season – soaked it all up.
A Kimber break and superbly judged kick led to a line-out in the York 22. Lock Steve Burns tapped it back to Ryan Cooper who triggered the swift passing move that saw Johnson beat three men to claim his second try.
Another Ilkley attack was spoiled by crossing and York countered, their right wing Charlie Nicholson just putting a foot in touch before touching down.
Alastair Monks limped off to be replaced by Elliot Morgan and half-time was reached with Ilkley 20 points ahead and with one try to go for that vital bonus point.
The first score of the second half though went to York, when Ilkley’s defence went to sleep and centre John Dawes took a good line to go in under the posts for a try which he also converted.
Ilkley responded by cranking themselves up a notch and the fun began. Another poor clearance was fielded by Johnson, who chipped ahead. From the resulting ruck, Kimber and Small put in Petchey for the bonus-point try.
Shortly afterwards, a superb catch and drive in the York 22 set Kimber up for his side’s fifth, the conversion bringing the score to 32-7.
With 20 minutes remaining and the game won, Ilkley relaxed and started to throw the ball about a bit more. Jon Hutchinson came on for Steve Graham and Charlie Davy for Nick Carolan.
Kimber’s second try came after another take against the head, the conversion moving the score on to 39-7 and then Ollie Renton was carded with 15 minutes remaining. Unsurprisingly, York opted for a scrum but knocked on.
With the title in the bag, Ilkley threw caution to the wind as they ran the ball out of defence, John Hutchinson, Kimber, Charlie Davy and Steve Nolson all contributed to a fine move that Johnson finished with aplomb for his hat-trick.
Ilkley’s 14 men were not finished though and after a sublime break by Kimber, Morgan - son of coach Rhys - was on hand to take the final pass to complete the scoring.
Kimber’s virtuoso performance and Johnson’s clinical finishing were the highlights of a team performance from the top-drawer.
The evident pleasure derived from winning this toughest of leagues by a single point was so very well earned.
Ilkley will now play Scarborough in the Shield Final at York on May 4th and on this form, a double is very much on the cards.
Mention should also be made of Ilkley’s second XV, whose victory over West Leeds gave them their merit table title and the chance to go into the second team premiership, if they can beat Scunthorpe next weekend.