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Pontefract put an end to Ilkley's run of six straight league win
Pontefract 32 Ilkley 27
Ilkley’s quest for a seventh'successive Yorkshire One victory at what has become something of a bogey ground was not helped by the changes from the side that had so comprehensively outplayed Old Brods the previous week.
In particular, the back row had lost the influential Ollie Renton and Nathan Bland due to work commitments.
In the backs, JH Johnson's unavailability gave Ned Brown a chance to shine in the centre. Nick Brook made a welcome return to the back row.
An entertaining match saw the lead change four times before the home side emerged victorious, with the visitors at least gaining two deserved bonus points to keep them in the top three in the league.
Ilkley started well and remained the better side for the first quarter of an hour, Mike Cacchia opening the scoring with a well-taken penalty. The home side responded with vigour, but with the referee playing advantage after a Derek Eves knock-on, Cacchia kicked to the blindside from his own 22.
The bounce favoured the onrushing Ilkley wing Steve Nolson, who touched down a little too far out for Cacchia’s conversion attempt, but gave the Dalesmen a lead of eight points.
The next score went to Pontefract, when replacement left wing Andy Tillet caught a well-angled cross-kick to beat Tom Maclean’s covering tackle. Full-back Andy Dean’s conversion attempt was well wide.
For Ilkley, Ian McCaul replaced Chris Chapman at flanker.
The home side upped their game and scored a stylish try when right-wing Richard Deadicot took an inside pass as his outside centre was tackled five metres from the Ilkley line. Again, Dean’s boot failed to add the extras.
With a good 15 minutes to half-time, it seemed that Ilkley had had practically no possession for quite some time, a point that was emphasised when Pontefract centre Matthew Bacon split the central defence to feed Tillet for his second try of the afternoon.
Dean made amends for his missed conversion when he slotted a penalty after some truly dreadful Ilkley fielding to give his side a half-time lead of 18 points to 8.
Ilkley started the second half with great determination and with their opposition on the back foot, won a penalty just 2 metres from the host’s line. A catch, a drive and an Iain Mackenzie try, the conversion by Cacchia bringing the score to 18-15.
Scenting some weakness in the home side now, Ilkley turned the screw and when Pontefract made a mess of their own line-out, Nick Brook hacked through and forced a knock-on. From the resulting scrum, Tom Collard darted over to put Ilkley in front for the second time. Cacchia’s miss still left Ilkley with a narrow two point lead.
Then it was bedtime, as Ilkley’s worrying tendency to drop off at crucial moments reappeared. Pontefract mustered two tries in less than ten minutes, the first when Rich Deadicoat finished off a move after several Pontefract scrums had put Ilkley under intense pressure in their own 22 and the second when some lamentable Ilkley defence saw flanker John Fradgley finish off an impressive move which involved all the home backs, plus a prop and hooker for good measure.
Ilkley’s slender two-point lead had now been transformed into a startling 12 point deficit at 32-20.
All credit to Ilkley though, as they did not lie down and roll over, but took the game back to Pontefract, winning several penalties, though all defended stoutly by their hosts.
Justice was finally done when full-back Ryan Duckett fielded a Pontefract clearance in his own 22, then set off on a mazy run, feeding Cacchia, who ran an elusive 50 metres before feeding inside back to Duckett who crashed under the posts to give Ilkley their two-point bonus score.
Ilkley are still not showing they can concentrate for the full 80 minutes and continue to ship points as a result. The squad system was stretched to its limits, particularly in the back row, where Eves showed that he still has great class. Aggressive tacking is not one of Ilkley’s strong points.
Having slipped a place to third, Ilkley now face a resurgent York. Coach Rhys Morgan does not need to do much more than remind his team that they are capable of winning this league, but that by taking a siesta during the action is not going to do it.