Ilkley 3 Sandal 21

ILKLEY will be glad to see the back of January after a third-successive North Premier League defeat.

Once again they got bogged down on a heavy pitch at Stacks Field as their injury-hit squad found the scales tipped against them in the face of a heavier Sandal pack.

Both sides badly needed a victory to hold on to league position just above the safety mark and for the second time this season, Sandal came out on top.

The early skirmishes were nervous ones and when referee Mr Chandrachud, stepping up a level, penalised Blake Morgan for a high tackle, Greg Wood landed the long-range goal.

Ilkley went on the attack with a probing run by Ben Magee before JH Johnson nearly scrambled over froma line-out

The Dalesmen returned with Ben Magee probing the right wing. A penalty on the Sandal 22 produced a line-out five metres out which saw JH Johnson almost scramble over the line.

The pass from the ensuing ruck was wild but Ilkley were awarded a penalty which Charles Morgan slotted over to level the scores.

Sandal then took a firm grip on the game. The legendary Ilkley defence was marshalled time and time again as Sandal went though the phases.

The pressure was rewarded when Wood kicked his second penalty to make it 6-3.

An infield break from Josh Hall looked promising until the ball was knocked on in a desperate attempt to keep it live.

More Ilkley possession in the Sandal 22 was coughed up when Jack Townend intercepted and would have scored were it not for great defence from new boy Struan Connor.

Ilkley’s scrum on their line was won and cleared to the 22, but three penalties followed by three line-outs produced the inevitable Sandal try when the ball was spun wide to skipper Simon Frewin.

Johnson got a yellow card for his efforts so Ilkley had to play a couple of minutes of the half with 14 men.

The increasingly restless crowd were hoping that coach Rhys Morgan would produce one of his transformational team talks, but this time his charges didn’t respond.

The bigger men were bossing matters and Ilkley just didn’t have an answer.

At least Steve Burns could compete on size and he and Jack Maplesden were sent on for the second half.

Nathan Smith joined the injury list with a broken hand and possibly foot too while Blake Morgan gave way to Maplesden.

It was more of the same with the Dalesmen coughing up penalties far too easily, defending line-outs and scrambling for their lives.

Sandal were turned over close in twice, but another penalty conceded after a scrum had been won gave the assured Wood a shot from the Ilkley 10 metre line which made it 14-3.

A repeat performance gave Wood another chance but it was wide.

There were a couple of glimpses of Ilkley’s undoubted capabilities but each time the Sandal red zone came into sight the ball was lost in the frantic efforts to get something on the scoreboard.

Big Jon Hutchinson came on for the gallant Dan Lawrence.

It was generally backs to the wall and despite defending well, the Sandal line seemed more and more elusive.

Sandal’s extra weight and power saw lock Jimmy Stewart pick up a ball on the 22.

With Ilkley’s defenders spread wide both sides for the anticipated pass down the back line his outrageous dummy gave him a clear run to the try line. Wood added the extras.

Debutants Connor and Jake Cleet showed promise and presence on a difficult day in an increasingly bleak mid-winter.

The Ilkley second XV raked up another big win at Old Brodleians, 70-7. Whilst the Centurions were beaten by a very competent West Leeds 2nd XV, 58-0.