ILKLEY, missing their inspirational captain, were beaten 23-12 by newly promoted Alnwick on Saturday.

Ilkley’s hopes of reversing a disappointing home defeat early on in the season were dented by the withdrawal of their captain Elliot Morgan from illness on Friday.

Ricky Palacio made his seasonal debut in his place and Matt Burke was recalled to the bench.

A fiercely strong diagonal wind greeted Ilkley at the Greensfield ground in Alnwick.

Ilkley played with the wind and kicked off. Alnwick kindly dropped the ball and Ilkley’s scrum heralded a short period of pressure with JH Johnson making ground and forcing a penalty which Ilkley put into touch for the line-out.

Further forward pressure and good recycling of the ball led to Johnson going over for a well-earned unconverted try.

Further reorganisation was necessary as Ed Brown’s hamstring troubled him and Andy Dixon came on at scrum half with Blake Morgan moving to the wing and Struan Connor to centre.

Alnwick came back strongly and took play upfield, where they won a line-out and drove James Hamilton over in the corner for an unconverted try.

They then tried to push Ilkley back with their bigger forwards driving into the Ilkley eight.

Ilkley held fast and took the game back to Alnwick, but then further disruption came for Ilkley when Pete Erskine had to go off following a head on clash with an Alnwick player. He was replaced by Matt Burke.

Alnwick continued their forward pressure but then Ilkley got the ball and put together some good phases.

With their tails up again, some great inter passing by Ilkley saw JH Johnson go over once more with a fine touchline conversion from Charles Ramsay.

Not to be outdone, Alnwick returned to their forward play and earned a penalty converted by their No 5 Jonny Young.

From the re-start, Ilkley went back on to the attack but a promising drive was lost for hanging on.

Ben Waddington made a good break and forced a penalty which gave Ilkley a great position near the Alnwick line but hard as Ilkley tried they couldn’t make it pay. Half-time came with Ilkley leading 12-8.

In the second half, Ilkley, now playing into the dipping sun and against the wind, gained a promising position with a line-out in the Alnwick half.

Unfortunately, this was lost and Alnwick pinned Ilkley in the bottom corner with more strong forward play.

Their defence held up well but a high tackle gave Young the chance to narrow the gap, which he duly did.

Finding it increasingly difficult to break out of their half, Ilkley were not helped by some handling errors and poor decision making.

Alnwick forced them back into the corner and two scrums later their No 10 Callum Burn scored a well-taken try to put Alnwick ahead at 16-12.

Ilkley had to respond but a poor kick from the re-start meant the Alnwick pressure was back on.

Ilkley then claimed a good line-out and escaped the threat.

They then made a positional change with scrum half Dixon swapping with Morgan on the wing. Dan Lawrence came on for Burke and Ilkley’s defence was again performing well until when making a promising attack in midfield.

A forced pass was taken by Alnwick releasing the charging Jonny Young, whose pass was held by the supporting Alnwick captain Peter Moralee to score under the post. Young converted to put Alnwick into a 23 -12 lead.

Ilkley tried hard to find the crucial break to at least give them a bonus point. They broke out of their half with some good possession but, after gaining a promising position in the Alnwick 22, Ilkley knocked on and the chance was lost.

Alnwick made good use of their forward strength and kicked to the bottom corner making it very difficult for Ilkley to score again.

The Ilkley squad must now regroup and return to winning ways and prepare to face the strong challenge of Wirral this Saturday.