Blackburn 64

Ilkley 7

ILKLEY’S first visit to newly-promoted Blackburn for a league fixture ended badly for the Dalesmen, as their Lancastrian hosts proved far too hot to handle in appallingly wet conditions.

Ilkley’s cause was not helped by several more enforced changes to the starting line-up and coach Rhys Morgan must be tearing his hair out in his efforts to secure a settled team.

Captain Joe Lowes was injured and there was another new pair of wingers making their debuts for the club, in the forms of Floris Van Oekel and Finn Gately.

Spring chicken Stephen Burns made a welcome return, adding some much needed weight to the Ilkley pack.

The home side didn’t look particularly menacing as the two sides lined up for the kick-off, but looks aren’t everything and by half-time, the try bonus-point had been secured and Ilkley were looking down the barrel of a very large gun.

As the Irish Sea was dumped on Ramsgreave Drive, the doughty spectators who could actually see what was going on were treated to a very impressive display from the home side, especially considering the conditions.

A further six tries came their way, with just the one solitary score from the visitors, courtesy of Harry Harrison, easing the pain a little.

Ilkley knocked on from the kick-off. Blackburn won the scrum and forged upfield. In went the Ilkley tackles, but out came the recycled ball.

A smart chip and gather and wingman Leon Fifield dived over in the corner. The No 11 showed that he was no one-trick pony by slotting a superb conversion from wide-out left, the first of a very impressive display off the boot.

There was a brief foray into the Blackburn half when a penalty was won, but Ilkley couldn’t find a way through and soon found themselves back in their own half.

Under considerable pressure, a couple of poor kicks led to two further converted tries and the loss of scrum-half Blake Morgan, replaced by Dan Nota.

Full-back Callum Smithson countered well from a fielded kick, but clattering into the defence on the Blackburn 10-metre line led to a game-ending injury.

The Ilkley backs then drifted offside and from the resulting line, Blackburn scored their fourth, again converted by Fifield, shortly before referee Mr Broomfield blew for half-time.

It was clear during the interval that Ilkley would be lucky to get anything from this match, but with conditions deteriorating by the minute, it seemed that neither side would find it easy to score in the second half.

Such sentiments were blown apart though, as whatever scintilla of hope remained in the Ilkley supporters’ hearts was dashed by a very impressive 40 minutes from the home side.

The weather just didn’t seem to affect Blackburn, indeed it suited their game and Ilkley started to concede penalties at an alarming rate.

The scoreboard remorselessly recorded try after try, cranking up to 54-0 before an Ilkley score.

Following a rare dropped pass by the home midfield, the ball was hacked through, leading to that try for centre Harrison, whose pace won the race to touch down. Chuckie Ramsay’s conversion gave a touch of respectability to the scoreline – not that Blackburn had quite finished.

Nothing went right for Ilkley after that and everything went right for the hosts. It seemed that every penalty went against the Dalesmen; every pass by Blackburn went to hand and every bounce of ball was kind for them – such is the game of rugby, with a final score to Blackburn of 64-7.

A desperately disappointed Ilkley can take great pride in never lying down and hopefully, will regroup in good time to face their next opponents at Stacks Field, Alnwick, surprise losers at home to Morpeth, who registered their first win of the season.

That leaves Ilkley as the only side without a win in this campaign. But – there is talent aplenty in the Ilkley ranks, so it is time for a home victory and a rise up the table.