A LATE surge helped Ilkley secure a bonus point in a 21-15 against high-flying Blaydon at the weekend.

The Saturday morning weather had threatened to turn Stacks Field into a swamp, but by kick-off time, the sun was out and the playing surface looked to be in remarkably good fettle.

Elliott Morgan led his side out, the skipper making his 100th appearance in an Ilkley shirt and his side was pleased to see the return of Ollie Holtham and J-H Johnson, meaning that the Dalesmen were pretty much at full strength.

Blaydon had had a comfortable 36-10 victory in the North East, back in November and with just a few games remaining in the season, they are favourites to claim the play-off spot and pip Billingham.

Ilkley didn’t have the best of starts, as they lost the first of half a dozen of their own lines, handing the advantage back to the visitors.

Slick handling put winger Jack Appleton over after just six minutes, the try converted by Jamie Guy.

Both sides tackled superbly and there was little penetration by either side.

Struan Connor had to leave the field with a gentleman’s injury, to be replaced by Johnson with a quarter of an hour gone.

More pressure was put on the Blaydon defence and after a series of penalties awarded to Ilkley, Mr Morrison awarded one in easy kicking distance and Charles Ramsey cut the lead to 7-3.

This followed a very good spell for Ilkley, as they went through 15 phases to make their way up the field.

Blaydon were in no mood to concede though and countered at every opportunity and it wasn’t long before Ramsey had to put in a clearance kick to his own 10 metre line.

Joe Lowes was forced to retire and was replaced by Matt Burke, with not quite half an hour gone.

It was now Blaydon’s turn to have a good spell, first with flanker Guy Graham breaking through a few tackles before being hauled down and then winger Frazer Wilson was bundled into touch.

Agonisingly for the Ilkley camp, the line was lost, Graham took control and set up his back-row colleague Keith Laughlin for his side’s second try, converted again by Guy. This was a cruel blow for Ilkley, but they buckled down immediately.

Johnson went on one his trademark runs, supported by Blake Morgan, who was tackled into touch.

Blaydon came back and Ilkley were fortunate not to concede again before half-time, as the visitors had the better of the last ten minutes.

Crucially, a penalty kick that had taken Blaydon to within two metres of the Ilkley line was very well-defended and when Blaydon obligingly knocked on, the whistle went for the break.

The second half started well for Ilkley and they enjoyed a great deal of possession.

The problem was though, trying to find a way through, over or round the well-marshalled Blaydon defence. Ilkley battered away, but to no avail.

Appleton then made 50 metres deep into the Ilkley half, but his final pass inside to a supporting colleague turned out to be one of the infirmary variety as Holtham buried the unsuspecting carrier. Ilkley turned this to their advantage and moved upfield once more.

One of the RFU touch-judges called foul play and Ilkley were awarded a penalty.

The kick failed to make touch and Ilkley found themselves back on Blaydon’s 10 metre line.

Dan Lawrence came on for Harry Wales. Still the possession led to naught, despite some excellent interplay between forwards and backs.

Ricky Palacio limped off and Wales returned, Ben Waddington moving out to centre, as he had done at Hull last week.

Blaydon were penalised – but not carded – for a deliberate knock on and Ed Brown kicked Ilkley to 20 metres out. It was not straight, said Mr Morrison and Blaydon cleared.

Another line was lost and Blaydon retained possession, worked the phases and eventually right wing Wilson dotted down in the corner. Guy’s excellent kick made it 21-3.

If Blaydon thought their bonus point would come in the remaining 15 minutes, Ilkley had other ideas and it was now that Ilkley’s fitness shone through.

The pace of the game was upped and Blaydon had no answer, even losing lock Liam Wright for preventing release.

Ilkley won their line and flashed the ball out left. Great hands and a jinking run by Waddington found Blake Morgan on hand to take a lovely, clever scoring pass. Ramsey’s kick missed but Ilkley came straight back.

A man down, Blaydon were reeling and it came as no surprise as Ilkley’s back row rampaged their way through a tiring defence to set up Waddington for another try to bring the score to 21-13.

The conversion would win Ilkley a bonus point and only the sound of a pin dropping broke the silence as Ramsey addressed the ball.

A beautiful kick followed by the final whistle and Ilkley deservedly got something from the game and the consensus on the terrace was had there been another ten minutes, Ilkley would have nicked it.

Alas not and Ilkley slipped down a place to ninth. With four matches to play, the next is away to Lymm, followed by the visit of relegated Wilmslow.

Then a tricky visit to Harrogate before ending the season at Kendal, who by then will know their fate.

Three wins and the Dalesmen could well be looking to finish comfortably in the top half of the league.