Ilkley 20 Kendal 16

ILKLEY got the new season off to a cracking start in a pulsating match at Stacks Field.

They had visitors Kendal reeling with two smartly-taken tries in the first ten minutes.

The closed season’s sevens ventures had served the Dalesmen well, as their backs looked markedly superior to the visitors’, though there was greater parity in the packs.

Ilkley profited from an early Kendal handling error, earning a scrum. Jack Maplesden had a think about moving the ball left, before deciding the supporting Ben Magee on the right was the better option.

A break, quick hands and there was the scrum-half on hand to take the scoring pass. Charles Morgan chipped over the conversion and Ilkley were 7-0 up as many of the crowd were just taking their seats.

Kendal eventually saw some possession and made good use of it, stand-off Glen Weightman nailing a penalty earned from their first attack when Ilkley failed to roll away after the tackle.

The Dalesmen came straight back, building up the phases before JH Johnson’s bullocking run set up the supporting Joe Lowes for his side’s second try. Charles Morgan’s kick made it 14-3.

Kendal’s danger man, Dino Noyo looked likely to score after a beautifully taken line, but Magee was ready and waiting to make the try-saving tackle.

Back came Kendal and a lucky bounce from a chip ahead set up a try-scoring opportunity, but the ball was held up over the line and Ilkley cleared when Kendal lost control as they drove the scrum over.

A lengthy scoreless passage of play ensue with Ilkley looking much the better side. Morgan had a long-range penalty drift wide, but it was Kendal who scored next, Weightman adding his second when Ilkley strayed offside in the centre.

Then it was Ilkley’s turn for another pot at goal when Kendal pulled down a maul, but a kick for the line was the option taken. Ilkley duly won this, but Kendal defended well – rather too well as it happened, as they were penalised for a dangerous tackle on winger Lewis Johnston, who had to leave the field.

The penalty attempt missed and Kendal surged back into the attack, gaining a scrum on the Ilkley 10-metre line.

Again a try looked to be on the cards, but a knock-on presented Ilkley with a scrum and they profited from this when their move upfield was halted illegally.

This time Morgan’s kick was good and Ilkley went in at half-time 17-6 ahead.

Ilkley nearly started the second half as they had the first when Maplesden reacted quickly to a kind bounce from a Magee kick ahead, but referee Adam Morrison called the teams back for a Kendal scrum.

For the next 20 minutes, Kendal pounded away at Ilkley, but the defence held firm and each Kendal sortie into the opposition half was repelled. Indeed, Ilkley looked likely to score a breakaway try on more than one occasion.

Eventually though, the pressure told. Kendal earned a fortuitous penalty for an innocuous looking tackle, and Weightman kicked for touch 10 metres from the Ilkley line.

The line-out won, Kendal set up two forward phases before releasing the ball to full back Nathan Wooff, whose score was close enough to the posts to make Weightman’s conversion a formality.

At 17-13 with plenty of time to go, the crowd was getting that uncomfortable feeling. Could Ilkley hold out to register their first win in an opening match in this league?

Morgan and Weightman exchanged penalties to keep the gap at four points and as the match went into the last five minutes, tensions were running high.

An Ilkley line was adjudged not straight and then a penalty was conceded. Kendal opted to scrum, but the Ilkley pack spoiled the possession, forcing a line-out.

This time, Dan Lawrence’s throw was inch perfect and Ilkley were able to clear. Then Kendal’s throw was crooked and at the resulting scrum, their front row was penalised and the final whistle blew.

This was a very good win indeed. Kendal’s side included a lot of new faces and the word on the street was that this was going to be a side to be reckoned with.

Ilkley’s sharpness in thought and deed, coupled with an outstanding defensive display, won them the four points and it will have to the same again when visiting Morley on Saturday.