Ilkley 21 Doncaster Phoenix 22

ILKLEY’S awful autumn rumbles on after the Dalesmen succumbed to a surprisingly slick Doncaster Phoenix side in the quarter-finals of the Yorkshire Cup.

They lost by the smallest possible margin in the last minute of injury time, but in truth, the game had really been lost by half-time.

Even when Blake Morgan’s quick thinking with a free-kick put his side in the lead with only five minutes to go for the only time, there were few on the terraces who thought they could hold on to it.

The first ten minutes flattered to deceive. Phoenix obligingly knocked-on at the kick-off giving Ilkley a scrum in a good attacking position, but a breakdown in communications led to a loss against the head.

Undeterred, Ilkley put some nice moves together and when Ben Magee’s run was halted, they were awarded another scrum and lost that too.

Again they came back at Phoenix, creating an overlap on the right wing, but Magee’s pass to Josh Hall was adjudged forward.

Having dominated the possession in the opening exchanges, Ilkley had nothing to show for their efforts and Phoenix responded with some fine running rugby.

Only a superb cover tackle from Blake Morgan over the goal-line prevented an opening score by hooker Will Holling.

Even when Phoenix knocked-on from the resulting scrum, Ilkley contrived to lose their third against the head.

This time, Phoenix made no mistake and good hands led to a well-taken try by left-wing Josh Fowler, Ryan Sorrel adding the extras to give his side a 7-0 lead.

The remainder of the half was littered with mistakes from both sides and referee Tom Doig had a busy afternoon.

There was no doubt that Phoenix were emerging the better side and only some last-ditch tackling on strong right-wing Seva Bulumakau prevented any further score in the half.

Ilkley’s crestfallen side trooped in for a roasting from coaches Rhys Morgan and Nathan Smith, but being down by only seven points must have acted as some sort of incentive as they outscored, if not outplayed, the opposition in the second spell.

Ilkley could make nothing from two penalties early on, but Phoenix scored with their first attacking move, a grubber kick being collected well by Bulumakau to touch down on the right wing, the conversion drifting wide.

Phoenix’s next attack was thwarted when James Milner attempted a one-handed interception, but this was seen as a deliberate knock-on and the yellow card was flourished.

Fortunately, Phoenix’s Sorrell overhit his kick and Ilkley were awarded a scrum.

Then better news, as Ilkley capitalised on the second of two penalties, winning the line-out and setting up a crash ball for Luke Freer who broke several tackles before scoring close to the posts. Charles Morgan’s conversion narrowed the gap to five point.

Milner’s return could not prevent the next score as prop Andy Wheelhouse forced his way over.

Ilkley briefly looked jaded and off the pace. This proved to be an illusion though as the Dalesmen surged back upfield, winning a scrum.

A neat pass from JH Johnson to Charles Morgan, the slightest of delays and in from the right wing came Josh Hall at speed to score under the posts. Morgan's conversion was successful.

Ilkley had built up an effective head of steam and another penalty took them to five metres from the Phoenix line.

Playing the phases well, play ended up right under the posts and when Phoenix offended at the ruck, over went Blake Morgan without further ado. The kick put Ilkley into a 21-17 lead with five minutes to go.

A needlessly conceded penalty in the middle of the pitch enabled Sorrell to rifle a kick to the Ilkley five-metre line.

The visitors on the line-out and set up a rolling maul which was halted illegally and Blake Morgan received a yellow card.

Phoenix opted for a second line-out and this time, flashed the ball out wide, where Ilkley simply ran out of defenders.

Tom Lennard’s try right on time made the missed conversion irrelevant and Phoenix were unsurprisingly ecstatic as the whistle blew.