ILKLEY’S rugby players have come in for criticism from their coaches following their thrilling 30-29 victory at Billingham.

The result extended their winning start to the season to four games, but also saw them drop from second to fourth in the North Premier League table.

Head of rugby Rhys Morgan said: “It seemed harsh that when we finished celebrating the win we found we had gone down rather than up in the league.

“However, when we analysed the performance at training on Tuesday there were a lot of areas where we fell beneath the standards we have reached in previous games.”

Ilkley found themselves 22-3 down at half-time and Morgan said: “In our previous game we made a flying start and were putting together 15-phase moves, at Billingham we couldn’t put three together without making an error.”

He added: “It is easy to look for excuses such as the artificial pitch, the long coach journey and Billingham’s playing style, but the truth was we didn’t carry out our game plan in the opening half.

“We made defensive errors that were punished and we cannot afford them if we want to build on the best start we have made since I came to Ilkley.”

This Saturday’s home clash will present the Dalesmen with a tough test as their front row resources will be depleted.

Ollie Holtham, Dan Lawrence and Josh Cockerham all unavailable. Ilkley will also be without versatile forward Martyn Mitchell who was outstanding against Billingham, and young flanker Joe Lowes is doubtful with a hip injury.

Swedish international Henrik Ek, Louis Jerome, Luke Spouls, Billy Nicholls and veteran Jon Hutchinson are just some of the players who could be under consideration for places.

Head coach Nathan Smith is another who might face Rossendale as Ilkley look to end September with a fifth league victory.