Ilkley 3

Sandal 25

A YOUNG Ilkley side played their hearts out but went down to a 25-3 defeat in a North Premier encounter with Sandal at Stacks Field on Saturday.

It wasn’t by any means quite the mauling that some had predicted, as this astonishingly young Ilkley side played out of their skins for most of the match, but as full-time approached, Sandal turned the screw to score under the posts with the last move of the game, the final score flattering the visitors somewhat.

Ilkley weathered the early storm well and with Sandal’s Luke Punton missing a relatively easy penalty, and the first quarter of the match was evenly balanced, although Ilkley were doing most of the defending.

With Archie Elgood making his full senior debut, deputising for Blake Morgan, the young scrum-half’s box kick from his own 22 was superbly caught on the full by wingman Floris Van Oekel on half-way and Ilkley were looking good for the opening score.

Unfortunately, a knock-on dashed this hope and poor ball retention became something of a negative feature for the rest of the game.

Sandal won a penalty at the scrum and the kick to touch found them on Ilkley’s 22.

The line was duly won by ex-Ilkley No 8 Nick Carolan, but after had Ilkley won turnover ball at the subsequent ruck, the ball carrier was bundled into touch.

Ilkley conceded another penalty and suddenly they had to defend their own five-metre line.

After cleanly winning another line, a delicate pop pass from the tail-end to onrushing centre Joe Allot put the Wakefield side led by five points, Punton missing his second kick of the day.

The second quarter of the game saw Ilkley in the ascendancy and despite not enjoying the rub of the green with referee Mr Wheeler, the home side played with invention to try and break down an excellent defence.

Booming penalty kicks from Callum Smithson set up a couple of interesting positions; Chuckie Ramsay went very close after a neat chip ahead by Harry Swarbrick and eventually, to one or two ironic cheers, Ilkley were awarded a penalty under the posts that Ramsay dispatched with aplomb.

Both sides might have scored again before half-time, but defences ruled. Into injury time and Ilkley had to endure two Sandal assaults, both after long periods of advantage being allowed.

From the second of these, Ilkley broke out from their own 22 and neat passing got them to their opponents’ 22, but stout defence and Mr Wheeler’s whistle halted proceedings at 5-3.

Sandal had the better of the opening exchanges of the second half and after Ilkley lost a scrum against the head, they were penalised for not rolling away, giving Punton an easy chance from the Ilkley 22 to make it 8-3.

Another penalty for a high tackle went Sandal’s way, but truly heroic Ilkley defence on their own five-metre line kept the claret and ambers out, with the Ilkley Eight shoving their opponents off the ball.

The visitors got up a head of steam and as the Ilkley defence became increasingly desperate, skipper Ramsay got a talking to after another huge period of advantage had been allowed. Punton kicked the goal.

Mr Wheeler’s patience finally came to an end when the outstanding Louis Fraser saw yellow.

Another popped pass at the end of the line saw replacement scrum-half Andy Miller dart over. Punton’s kick made it 18-3 and left Ilkley with a hill to climb, even to get a losing bonus point.

Prop Joe Paton had to leave the field and this led to uncontested scrums, which at least had the benefit of clean ball for the Ilkley backs, but much as they tried in the last ten minutes, they simply lacked the penetration to take advantage of their possession. Paton’s departure was followed by J-H Johnson’s.

With the match petering out and with the Dalesmen running on empty - down to 13 men with five injured players - another knock-on gave Sandal a scrum.

A quick pass from the base by Miller and Sandal’s man-of-the-match Jack Townend sliced through the depleted line of defence. Punton’s conversion ended the match at 25-3.

Disappointing as this result was, this was in fact a good game. Ilkley might grow tired of being labelled plucky losers, but that in fact is what they were.

The Sandal support was generous in its praise of the effort put in by their hosts, many in fact expressing surprise that Ilkley were propping up the league.

This Saturday's fixture, the last of the year, at Kirkby Lonsdale will give this nascent side another opportunity to display its pride.

Ilkley did the double on their Cumbrian opponents last year and this Saturday would be an ideal time to start to repeat the process.