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Dalesmen impress after sloppy start
Driffield 10 Ilkley 23
Ilkley showed some changes from the side that defeated Wath the week before, Chris Chapman starting at flanker in place of Nathan Bland and Tom Maclean coming in on the wing in place of Mark Kirkby Craig Barker retained the centre berth vacated by the injured Alistair Monks while Sam Boot returned via the bench, along with new boys Tony McNally and James Sergeant.
Ilkley have rarely fared well against Driffield over the years and lost both league games last season, but, after a disastrous start, they ran out comfortable winners. A routine catch and set and a seemingly easy clearance for Tom Collard went horribly wrong as the kick was charged down and flanker Tom Wright easily won the race to touchdown after just 40 seconds of play.
Robin Kitching’s conversion rubbed salt into the wound and Ilkley were 7-0 down.
From the restart, Kris Stafford’s fine take got Ilkley within striking distance and a Driffield infringement gave Mike Cachia his first attempt at goal which failed.
The home side responded immediately and Ilkley transgressed on the half wayline, giving Kitching another pot at goal which he duly converte.
After just seven minutes play, Ilkley were ten points down, leaving their travelling support shaking their heads in disbelief. However, these were the last points Driffield scored and it was left for a rampant Ilkley pack to claw their way back into the match.
This was triggered by an aggressive drive, then a release of the ball to Steve Burns, Cachia and JH Johnson, who eventually fed Tuli Makaafi to run in a try in the corner. Cachia’s conversion put Ilkley right back in the game.
Driffield then piled on the pressure and Ilkley duly conceded penalty after penalty, but to no advantage to the home side.
After what seemed an eternity, Ilkley cleared their lines. Then after two powerful rolling mauls, the backs were released again and Cachia and skipper Stuart Vincent gave winger Makaafi a glimpse of the line and the Tongan obliged, squeezing in for his second try.
Whilst the conversion was missed, Ilkley were now ahead 12-10 The Driffield forwards could not match their counterparts’ and with Iain Mackenzie, Burns, Ben Fear and Josh Cockerham handling like backs, it came as no surprise when a line-out on the Driffield 22 was won by Ilkley, who then drove a full 20 metres before prop Fear crashed over for Ilkley’s third try. The missed conversion left the half-time score 17-10 in Ilkley’s favour.
There were more comic cuts at the start of the second half with poor handling from both sides, each messing up moves that might have led to scores.
Ilkley were then awarded a somewhat fortuitous penalty for obstruction, which Cachia stroked over to put them two scores in front.
A penalty to Ilkley for chat to the referee saw the start of some great back-play but then Ilkley lost the plot for ten minutes, conceding five penalties on the trot and giving the tiring Driffield forwards some heart.
A rumble towards the Ilkley line was rewarded with a scrum, five metres out, but a great strike against the head allowed Barker to clear.
The home side now had to chase the last quarter of the game and whilst mounting one or two promising attacks, they were not able to capitalise, even missing a fairly straightforward.
The last score of the game came from a Cachia penalty after Driffield held on to a fielded clearance kick too long, which put Ilkley out of sight at 23-10.
Josh Cockerham was a tad unlucky to be carded for a high tackle with five minutes to go and the match ended rather scrappily. This may prove to be a defining moment for this new Ilkley side. Never at their best away from home and starting the match as underdogs, this was a truly sterling performance by the whole side and the backs look as balanced a unit as any since the promotion year and the forwards really do play as a team. Coach Rhys Morgan is doing a fine job.
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