Ilkley 25 Morley 23

PANTOMIME season ? Oh yes it is ! And the Dalesmen provided a fine cast of strutting players on a Stacks Field stage that had raised one or two questions as to its fitness for the show.

In a first half littered with so many unforced errors from the hosts, it certainly seemed as if one side wanted to play on a possibly suspect surface and the other didn’t.

Rock-bottom Morley huffed and puffed and nearly blew Ilkley’s house down, before succumbing to Ilkley’s Prince Charming, JH Jonhson, who scored two deserved tries.

The first half coughed up a sub-standard display that both irritated and frustrated the Ilkley support, aided and abetted by a very stern referee in the form of Jordan Wagner whose frequent interventions did little to promote the fast and open game that the surprisingly good conditions cried out for.

Ilkley were 10-0 down after15 minutes, veteran Mark Chester kicking a penalty and then converting centre Andy Ellis’s bullocking try after the home side lost a strike against the head. Only some heroic defence and a knock-on out wide had prevented further damage.

Max McKay replaced Adam Newman and from the kick-off, Ilkley won a penalty that Charles Morgan slotted to reduce the deficit.

But not for long as a simple kick at goal enabled Chester to make it 13-3.

Ilkley earned a penalty from the kick-off and another dodgy line-out was rescued by Ollie Holtham tidying at the back.

Ilkley’s attack was repulsed and Chester’s clearance forced play back deep into the home half.

A counter-attack led to a penalty awarded under the posts, but a simple kick at goal was rejected in favour of a touch kick, which came to naught.

Another scrummaging offence – are there really so many? – gave Chester a chance to increase his side’s lead, but a rare miss reprieved Ilkley.

Then a break-out from Ben Magee saw him make 50m before his delicate chip ahead was knocked on.

Morley won the scrum but, Ilkley benefitted from a penalty reversal. They dived over the top but Morley's vociferous response saw Mr Wagner take exception and Charles Morgan took the three points on offer.

The half finished in predictably dismal fashion as a series of penalties awarded against Ilkley resulted in a yellow card for Will Coates which ensured that his side would start the second half with 14 men, not for the first time this season.

The whistle brought the matinee performance to an end and the players sought the comfort of their dressing room for a mild roasting, the spectators to the bar for a winter-warmer.

Ilkley had clearly learned their lines in the interval, as they started the second half with a greater sense of purpose.

The first five minutes featured a bit of end to end ping-pong, before a clash of heads in the centre saw Morley’s Ellis leaving the field for treatment.

Having won a ruck on the halfway line, Magee seemed to be off on another run, but play was called back to break up a light flurry of handbags.

Further scrapping followed shortly afterwards and Ellis left the field once more, this time for a full ten minutes.

From the penalty, Charles Morgan found touch five metres out and then Steve Burns took a great ball at the line-out. The maul rolled round and Holtham touched down for a well-worked try.

With the bit between their teeth and playing much more like a team, Ilkley were straight back at Morley and some delightful interplay involving Magee, Holtham, skipper Elliott Morgan and Henrik Ek put Johnson over for a great score.

Morgan added the extras and his side led 18-13.

The five point lead was soon reduced to two when Chester kicked a penalty when Ilkley’s front row was penalised.

Ilkley looked to have built a comfortable cushion for themselves when, not for the first time, Ek broke clear of traffic and found Charles Morgan in support.

A lovely half-break was supported by Johnson who scored his second try. Morgan converted and it was 25-16.

Morley needed to score twice and they gave it a good go, but Ilkley defended intelligently.

With five minutes to go, and Morley pounding the Ilkley line, Burns pulled a maul down and was yellow carded.

The ball was spun out wide and Chester side-stepped his way over under the posts, then adding the goal to make it 25-23.

Ilkley earned a penalty at the kick-off, which Morgan took his time over, but missed. Morley knocked on after the drop-out and that was it. Mr Wagner blew his whistle and the curtain fell.