A RESOLUTE Ilkley defence squeezed the life out Lymm's lively attack and the visitors came away with a close 21-16 win on Saturday.

Missing Max Mackay, Andy Dixon and Ben Waddington, Ilkley switched Blake Morgan back to scrum-half and welcomed Rory Kassapian into the back row.

Former Colt Archie Elgood, Barney Vaughan and Joe Paton made up the bench, all for their debut matches. Peter Erskine also made a welcome return to the second row.

The first quarter of an hour saw each side throwing the ball about, the close encounters being very much as forecast between two quite similar sides.

Both were penalised for holding on in quick succession, but it was Lymm that had the first chance of points, when Ilkley went offside at the breakdown, some 40 metres out. Tom Shard’s kick drifted left though and Ilkley cleared.

Lymm were then penalised for not releasing, but touch was not found.

Ilkley then transgressed and Lymm countered. A chip into touch around 30 metres out gave Ilkley the line, but this was lost and after a patient build-up, stand-off Tom Bray touched down wide on the right. Shard’s conversion was unsuccessful.

Ilkley’s response was immediate and effective. The tireless Ollie Holtam won a loose ball on the ground and this was used as the platform to set up his side’s next attack. Despite some fierce tackling, Ilkley were awarded a scrum 20 metres out. A pick and drive and Ilkley’s pack inched its way upfield.

A metre out and under Lymm’s posts, Blake Morgan’s dummy fooled the defence and the touch down was under the posts. Charles Ramsey made no mistake and it was 7-5 to the Dalesmen.

The game livened up as both sides began to make errors. A clever move in the backs by Lymm was rewarded with a try by centre James Kimber, as a dummy run caused confusion in the Ilkley ranks, but the kick was missed again.

Ilkley had to respond and once more, they did with style.

A fine run by the tigerish Joe Lowes deep into the Lymm 22 led to first a ruck and then a popped pass from Blake Morgan to Rory Kassapian to storm in from five metres. Ramsey’s kick put Ilkley back into the lead at 14-10.

In retrospect, the remaining ten minutes of the half won Ilkley the game. As Lymm ramped up the pressure, their guests had a lot of defending to do and had three lines to win, all achieved comfortably.

Lymm battered away at the Ilkley line, but this held and referee Mr Charlton finally signalled the end of the first half.

Ilkley started the second half with startling ferocity. Blake Morgan’s tap penalty released Struan Conner for a good run, but the final pass went astray and Lymm cleared to the 22. A great take in the line and a perfect platform for a rolling maul.

Pack leader Pat Power called for reinforcements and with a couple of backs joining in, Ilkley made progress at a healthy rate of knots for a full 20 metres.

Eventually, Blake Morgan demanded the ball and crashed down under the posts for a team try. Ramsey made it 21-10.

Lymm’s kick-off might have been dealt with better and Ilkley were penalised for not rolling away.

Then Lowes had to leave the field, to be replaced by Barney Vaughan, Harry Wales dropping to the back row. Shard had his first success with the boot and the score was 21-13.

Neither side could make much progress in the ensuing ten minutes, though both put together some good moves and Ilkley looked marginally superior.

The deadlock was broken when Ilkley conceded at the breakdown, handling in the ruck and Shard slotted the goal to make it 21-16.

With 15 minutes to go, Lymm got desperate. Ilkley made a couple of mistakes, but so were the home side and Ramsey’s preparations for a penalty kick ate up some valuable time, the kick drifting wide.

Lymm stormed back and won a line-out on the Ilkley 22. The ball went wide, but a knock on ended that particular venture and Ramsey was able to clear to 30 metres.

Ed Brown’s attempted interception in Lymm’s next attack gave the home side a scrum and then a line-out, but Ilkley won the ball and from then on, Lymm didn't see it again.

Ilkley’s discipline in retaining the ball for these final couple of minutes was exemplary. Closing down a match like this requires skill and patience, attributes that the Ilkley pack had in buckets full.

Mr Charlton indicated time was up, as Blake Morgan called for the ball and hoofed it into touch. Game over.

This was a gritty performance by Ilkley, with a palpable sense of commitment. The line-outs were much, much better and despite losing just the one, they took three of Lymm’s. Not allowing a score in the final ten minutes of each half was a very impressive achievement.

Further misery was heaped on the hosts when it became known that Kendal had a five-point win away to Wirral.

With Lymm having a very tough run-in to the end of the season, Ilkley’s last match of the campaign away to Kendal may have real significance on determining the last relegation slot, with Wilmslow and Vale of Lune both doomed.

Ilkley’s next match is in fact at home to Wilmslow and without taking anything away from worthy opponents, the home side will certainly be favourites and a bonus point win would mean last year’s final total of 62 would be matched.