Blaydon 36 Ilkley 10

FOR the dozen stalwart Ilkley supporters who made the 200-mile round trip to Blaydon Rugby Club, there were only a couple of brief highs on a disappointing afternoon for their side, who slumped to a 36-10 defeat.

Blaydon have been relegated twice in the last two seasons and now find themselves in the North Premier. Their sights are clearly set on getting back to loftier places as quickly as possible.

Hull, Sandal, Billingham and Rossendale have all beaten them this season but they got back on track against Wirral in the last round.

Therefore, it fell upon Ilkley to find Blaydon with their tails up and on the receiving end of arguably their best display of the season.

Referee Nathan Howard took charge just a week after officiating at Stacks Field in the Dalesmens’ defeat to Hull, a display that had come in for some criticism from both sides.

The visitors had no reason to moan here though, and they started by winning two successive penalties before losing second row Luke Pearson to a calf injury. Pete Erskine replacing him.

With a lineout on the home 22, Ilkley spun the ball wide to send Cam Burnhill flying towards the line. He was tackled a metre short and set the ball up for Struan Connor to go over for a 5-0 lead.

The final five minutes of the match were again Ilkley’s, as several good phases following skipper Elliot Morgan’s burst through the middle saw the ball sent wide left to Billy Nicholls.

He sent out a magnificent looping miss pass to debutant Ben Waddington, who crashed over in the corner for the final try of the match, Ilkley’s second.

Sandwiched in between those two highlights were Blaydon’s six tries and an enterprising, but ultimately fruitless, effort from Ilkley.

Their undoing came as a result of costly errors, both forced and unforced, which led to the Blaydon tries.

First, they were penalised for crossing as Waddington ran around Steve Burns after a lineout was won. The kick put the home side 10 metres out and the drive proved unstoppable. Hooker Cam Bell scored to bring the game level.

The visitors kept getting pushed off the ball in scrums, before a key moment arrived when Blaydon were stopped just short.

Ilkley's influential flanker Joe Lowes was ruled off his feet and was yellow carded. A try from Blaydon skipper Keith Loughlin resulted, which Jamie Guy converted.

An enforced change to Blaydon’s front row evened up the scrums but a spilled loose ball halted Ilkley’s progress.

Instead, they had a lineout on their 22 which was lost. Blaydon worked their opponents left then right to score through lock Jack Davidson in the corner. 17-5 down with only a quarter gone, things were not looking good for Ilkley.

The second quarter was significantly better with a lot of good play and huge effort from the Dalesmen.

After Lowes returned to the fray, Ilkley began to make inroads and a high tackle was punished with a superb kick by JH Johnson. A scrum was won but the ball lost in the tackle area.

A moment of feistiness and a slap in the face then allowed Johnson to push the ball right into the corner. The lineout was won but a knock-on frustrated Ilkley’s best chance of the half.

The half ended with Ilkley on Blaydon’s 22 but that was as good as it got, as a Blaydon onslaught arrived in the second half.

Ilkley still created several chances but they succumbed to three more tries, despite Blaydon losing Loughlin to a yellow card with 10 minutes to go.

The visitors' best chance fell to Waddington, but the ball was somehow burgled from him close in.

Blaydon’s first of the half came after an Ilkley high tackle. From the lineout, the hosts put a great move together with centre Alex Clark scoring. Guy added the extras to make it 24-5.

Ilkley then contrived to lose four lineouts in a row and a couple of mistakes with kicks cost them dear.

They were called on to withstand huge pressure but the defence finally cracked as Loughlin scored again. Guy on target again to make it 31-5.

Another Ilkley scrum in reverse produced Blaydon’s final score, as winger Fraser Wilson went in down the right to make it 36-5, before Waddington added that late consolation.

The visitors picked up a few knocks during the defeat and they will all hope to recover ahead of the next game, a tough but winnable home fixture with Lymm, who were thrashed by high-flying Hull 56-10 last week.

Five points would be a wonderful tonic following two tough weekends for the Dalesmen.

Ilkley’s third XV put up a brave display against table-toppers Morley at Stacks Field, but came off second best, losing 24-7.