NERVES jangled as Ilkley beat Lymm 20-18 in an absorbing North Premier encounter on Saturday.

Both Ilkley and Lymm needed the win to close on the mid-table cluster and more importantly to get further away from the bottom three.

As such, it could never have been a classic but it was an absorbing match with some moments of sublime rugby and some moments of hair raising errors from both sides.

It was a proper game of amateur rugby at the highest level.

The large crowd was drawn to this game even while England were on TV in the warmth of Ilkley’s clubhouse.

The Ilkley 19th man was needed in the last ten nerve-jangling minutes when Lymm took a one-point lead, only to surrender it to a Charles Ramsey penalty with five minutes to go.

Lymm sensed blood, Ilkley were creaking. Lymm were dispossessed as they mounted their final charge. Joe Lowes emerged with ball and made 30 vital metres to peg the visitors back in their 22, effectively clinching the game.

The opening salvoes were bossed by the home side. Blake Morgan capped the dominance with an outrageous dummy to flatfoot the Lymm defence. He outpaced them all to score under the posts. Ramsey had taken a nasty knock to his cheek and it was a couple of minutes before repair work was completed and he could take the kick at goal. It slewed wide and the lead was 5-0.

Immediately Ilkley coughed up an offside penalty on their ten metre line, which Cormac Nolan stroked over to make it 5-3.

Ramsey’s delicately placed kick found touch in Lymm’s 22. They won the line-out, but knocked on as they tried to play out of trouble.

The scrum was won and touch found. Ilkley won a line-out, drove for the line and were stopped just short.

After pounding the solid Lymm defence, referee Mr Bloomfield ruled offside. “Points” yelled the crowd, but Blake Morgan didn’t hear. He saw a gap, took it quickly and wove a path through to bag his brace and make it 10-3.

Ilkley had a let off when a Lymm penalty was reversed after a good spell for the visitors.

After some more nervous moments, an Ilkley line-out put the Dalesmen on the front foot and young Ben Waddington went close before Lymm snuffed out the attack.

Blake Morgan succumbed to a knee injury incurred on the 4G at Blaydon and was replaced by Andy Dixon.

Penalties were exchanged before a Lymm defensive effort was turned over and some great interplay put hooker Harry Wales in for a try. Ramsey added the extras to increase the lead to 17-3.

In the final minute before half-time, Lymm stretched the Ilkley defence to its limit and a score was stopped by a knock-on on the line.

Half-time came with some relief. Coach Rhys Morgan needed his men to settle and to keep hold of the ball. He brought Dan Lawrence on for Peter Erskine.

The Ilkley first half exuberance turned to grit and determination as Lymm responded to their coach Adam Fletcher’s half-time exhortations.

The Dalesmen coughed up another penalty after a massive defensive action. Nolan's kick cut the lead to 17-6.

Now the visitors sensed more to come and the Dalesmen were called on to defend yet again.

Winger JH Johnson finally got traction in the game and set up a great scoring chance which was squandered.

Ilkley had the ball over the Lymm line but were held up. Bizarrely the scrum collapsed. Even more bizarrely Ollie Holtam was penalised and yellow carded. Why would an experienced prop collapse a scrum in that position?

It got worse as Lymm put an offside penalty to five metres. The line-out was won and after several phases the ball went wide out left for 6ft 5in winger Richard Halford to score in the corner. The score was 17-11 as the conversion attempt drifted wide.

Lymm had another well taken score when Gav Woods scythed through the middle of a tired defence. Nolan converted the try to put the visitors 18-17 up.

Then Lowes did his bit to earn Ilkley a precious penalty in front of goal. Ramsey had to hold his nerve and composure to ensure his early miss hit wasn’t repeated. To the great relief, his kick sailed over.

And after a gritty couple of minutes Ilkley took the four points. Lymm got a losing bonus point but there are now seven points between Ilkley in 10th and Lymm in 11th.

This Saturday Ilkley travel to struggling Wilmslow where another performance will be required to ensure the momentum is carried over to successive home games with Harrogate and Sandal.