Ilkley 15

Lymm 30

ILKLEY’S dismal season continued apace at Stacks Field on Saturday as they slipped to yet another reverse, this time at the hands of Lymm, a side that had tasted four consecutive defeats at the hands of the Dalesmen prior to this match.

Whilst the pains of previous losses have been partially assuaged by the fact that the side had played as well as it could possibly have done, this was regrettably not the case here, as Lymm were patently not the force they were in previous seasons either and should have been put to the sword by half-time.

Ilkley’s percentage of possession in the first 40 minutes deserved more than a measly lead of two points at 8-6, but in the second half, it was the visitors who started the stronger, eventually running out 30-15 winners.

The early signs were encouraging for the Ilkley faithful, many of whom had to be prised from their lunch-tables, bamboozled by the earlier kick-off time.

Late cry-offs had forced Rhys Morgan to play J-H Johnson at full-back and it was the latter’s penalty-kick that took his side to Lymm’s 10m line.

Nothing came from the line, but when the first scrum was called in Lymm’s favour, Ilkley’s pack looked rock-solid. Less encouraging was the propensity to concede penalties and when referee Mr Henry blew for not rolling away, up stepped the ever-reliable Cormac Nolan to kick his first goal of the day.

Ilkley’s response was positive and with Eddy Brown and Johnson making good ground, a nice break from Chuckie Ramsay led to a line-out that was well won. A catch and drive and a try for Dan Lawrence, the conversion missing by a whisker.

At 5-3 Ilkley upped their game, forcing Lymm to concede penalties. A couple of opportunities to kick for goal were spurned, Ilkley even opting for the scrum. Another Lymm offence and Blake Morgan took a quick one and it went over, only to be called back, presumably to take the kick ‘properly’. Ramsay’s boot made it 8-3.

With just a couple of minutes go to half-time, a decent Lymm attack ended with a knock-on and Ilkley kicked to clear to their 22. Lymm’s clean take led to another penalty awarded for not rolling away and Nolan made it 8-6 at half-time.

Lymm started the second half as if there’d been something illegal in the tea and battled their way upfield from Ilkley’s kick-off.

A shattering tackle on the visitors’ Nathan Beesley stopped all that, but not for long. Ilkley’s solid scrum allowed Ramsay to clear, but after Lymm won the line-out, Ollie Holtham’s wincingly awful high tackle on a Lymm centre saw the prop apologetically leaving the field before Mr Henry could locate his yellow card.

Sam Rowntree limped off as Nolan made it 8-9.

Down to 14 men, Ilkley nevertheless took the game back into the Lymm half, but their patient build-up came to naught, not helped by an atrocious line-out that handed the advantage back to their opponents.

As Ilkley lost concentration during the Lymm counter, tackles were missed and that man Nolan spotted a gap and went over for a good try. His conversion made it 16-8, but Ilkley were still very much in the game with Holtham returning.

Alas, the wheel-nuts had been loosened and after a frankly poor passage of play, off came the wheels.

The tireless Joe Lowes was isolated when tackled and Lymm turned the ball over, another line was lost and then a knock-on following a speculative Lymm up and under allowed Mr Henry to play advantage.

A deft kick through was well followed up by winger Beesley, who just managed to touch down before the ball rolled dead. Up stepped know the rest.

Ilkley now had to score next and they certainly tried their level best, but the Lymm defence was solid and their hosts were wilting.

A kick ahead when a pass was the better option gave Lymm the opportunity to counter and a third try was conceded as left-wing Joe Senior touched down. Nolan’s kick made it 30-8.

Ilkley’s next and final attack yielded more positive results as Ramsay’s show and go yielded a try, but even drop-kicking the conversion didn’t give his side enough time to come anywhere near earning a losing bonus point.

Indeed, Ilkley were lucky not to concede a fourth try as another passage of poor play led to the second yellow of the day being shown to Louis Fraser for a shirt tug. Lymm almost got their bonus point try, but knocked on over the line and so it ended.

Scratching around for positives, it was great to see Luke Pearson back on the pitch and Struan Connor upstairs after the match, the latter being Ilkley’s top try-scorer last season. Harry Harrison looks dangerous every time he had the ball and the Ilkley scrum looked comfortable all day.

There’s a huge task ahead for the Dalesmen, but hope isn’t to be abandoned just yet, even if next week’s fixture at Blaydon is a tricky one, to say the least.

The next two home games though are against fellow-strugglers Morpeth and Rossendale and these just have to be won.