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Ilkley win despite disastrous second-half display
Knottingley 26 Ilkley 31
Ilkley travelled to Knottingley full of optimism after their great win at the seaside the previous week, though this was tinged with some apprehension.
First there was the memory of last year’s disastrous second-half performance leading to a loss with the last kick of the match and then there was the prospect of having to play without three key players – Ollie Renton and Nathan Bland in the forwards plus Mike Cacchia in the backs.
John Hutchinson returned at hooker and Tuli Makaafi also made his comeback, though at blindside wing-forward, rather than his normal wing position. So with Craig Barker moving to stand-off and Matt Trevithick debuting in the centre, the much lauded Ilkley squad system was given a stern test even before kick-off.
In the event, Ilkley emerged victorious, but not before they had put their travelling support through the wringer again by conceding 21 unanswered points in a dismal second-half performance. They were glad to hang on for a 31-26 victory which took them up to second place in Yorkshire Division One.
The match started in scrappy fashion and continued thus, until man of the match Craig Field cruised over for a very well-taken try in the corner to give Knottingley a 5-0 lead. The conversion was missed by Piper.
Ilkley responded well and a silky run by JH Johnson from his own half ended just short of the Knottingley line. Ilkley’s forwards were first on the scene and Steve Burns levelled the score. Tom Callard’s kick put the visitors in front.
The visitors then took control and the next score came from a piece of opportunism from Tom Collard when the scrum-half finished off a trademark catch and drive. His conversion gave Ilkley a 14-5 lead.
From the kick-off, a misfielded catch by the Knottingley full-back was pounced on by Collard, who then fed Tom Maclean, who the put JH Johnson in for a great try, Collard adding the points to take the lead to 21-5.
Ilkley’s bonus point try arrived soonafter as second row Kris Stafford was on hand to take Matt Trevithick’s pass to crash over to put Ilkley 26-5 ahead.
Surely this was it.
The second half started well for Ilkley, with a try in the first minute when JH Johnson scooted over having held on to a delightful long, floated pass from Callard.
The conversion was missed,but at 31-5 up, surely nothing could go wrong.
Well how wrong can the man on the terraces be ? In a truly woeful 30 minutes, Ilkley conceded penalty after penalty. Makaafi was lucky to stay on the field after jumping into a tackle, but saw yellow shortly afterwards for another more technical infringement.
Field helped himself to another two tries in a superb Knottingley fight back, Piper converting both to give the home side some hope at 31-19.
Still the penalties came and then Collard was carded with five minutes to go. The home side capitalised immediately, with some Ilkley ball-watching allowing flanker French in for a Knottingley bonus-point try. Piper’s conversion closed the gap to just five points.
For the last few minutes, Ilkley finally regained their composure and with Maclean moving to scrum-half, the visitors were able to snuff out the remaining challenges of their hosts and it was with no little relief when Maclean hoofed the ball into touch to hear the final whistle.
Ilkley failed to get to grips with Knottingley’s No8 Field for the second year in succession, though to be fair, not many teams do. The propensity to ship a lot of points in the second half is worrying and this is well-documented in the points difference statistics.
But again, Ilkley played badly and won. The handling in the backs can be sublime while the forwards generally play as a great unit and there is clearly a great deal of camaraderie.
The return of Renton and Cacchia will strengthen the side against Old Brodleians and after all, the Dalesmen are now in second position in the league.
North One East anyone?