Billingham 34 Ilkley 19

ILKLEY travelled to unbeaten Billingham to play their fourth North Premier League fixture on an all-weather pitch.

Last season Ilkley had won the corresponding away fixture and had lost at home.

This time the result was a win for Billingham by a somewhat flattering margin, with both teams having fully contributed to a keen contest.

After the recent downpours a fine day and an open game of rugby were in prospect.

However, a strong diagonal cross wind and limited identification of offside by the referee did inhibit open play.

Well done to Billingham who scored six tries, two of which were when Ilkley were reduced to 14 men, to the Dalesmen's three.

Billingham adapted better to the direction of the wind and slight slope and used them both to good effect.

Four of their tries were scored in the right-hand corner. Only one penalty kick, by Ilkley, was aimed at the posts with all the others were used to drill down the touchline or to head for space.

The match started badly for Ilkley with a needless penalty being conceded on halfway resulting in the home side building a pressure position near the line.

Despite stout defence eventually there was an unconverted touch down in the right-hand corner.

After the restart another unnecessary penalty gave the initiative and territory back to Billingham but this time the attack was thwarted and the ball got worked down into the home 22.

Billingham defended well but eventually the pressure told and Bernie Burns crashed over to level the scores. Charles Morgan missed the conversion.

A key point in the game arose with Blake Morgan was yellow-carded for raising his arm towards an opponent who had tackled him high. While Ilkley were down to 14 men Billingham worked two good tries, neither of which were converted to take a 15-5 half-time lead.

Quite early on in the second half JH Johnson had to be replaced after a characteristic commanding, break, stopped by a crash-tackle.

On to the wing came pacy Struan Connor, with Tom Milner switching into the centre.

Then, after both teams continued to seek to move the ball about Billingham scored a converted try.

The 22-5 scoreline had become more parlous for the travelling support.

Ilkley injected another change with prop Louis Jerome replacing Billy Nicholls.

There was then a really good passage of play by Ilkley, which saw two good tries.

The first, after electrifying running by the backs, was scored by Connor, in the right-hand corner. This was converted by Charles Morgan, kicking into the wind.

Then came the missed penalty, which in turn was superseded by a scintillating try scored by Charles Morgan, which he then converted to make the score 22-19.

That was as close as Ilkley got as in the final minutes. The home side had something of a renaissance and scored two more tries, one after a flighted kick to the favoured right corner.

So, a good match was deservedly won by Billingham 34-19.