Ilkley 0

Wirral 38

THREE tries in each half saw Wirral cruise past Ilkley in Saturday's North Premier match at Stacks Field.

Wirral came with the hope of pulling themselves out of the relegation zone, whereas the home side would be grateful for any munificence the rugby gods might bestow.

In the event, Wirral’s dreams were realised, courtesy of three tries per half and Ilkley were left to lick their wounds once more, despite yet another courageous performance that yielded precisely nothing.

Any budding statistician would have noted that Ilkley had by far the lions’ share of overall possession in the 80 minutes, but they were unable to translate it into points.

While there was a lack of penetration in the backs, Wirral defended very well indeed.

The first ten minutes were played entirely in Wirral’s half, with Ilkley battering away gamely, winning a couple of penalties, taken quickly, but all to no avail.

They then lost the iconic J-H Johnson to what looked like a head injury, Louis Jerome coming on to fill the gap.

Wirral eventually made it to the Ilkley half via a penalty after Blake Morgan was penalised at the breakdown, having bust a gut chasing a kick ahead.

The visitors conceded at the line-out, but the Ilkley scrum was disrupted, the ball was lost and a missed tackle allowed winger Josh Connolly in at the corner. James Annetts' kick hit the post and bounced out.

Ilkley came straight back into the opposition 22, but again conceded a penalty that let Wirral of the hook.

They were also marched back a further 10 metres for chat and full advantage was taken as some neat interplay between Connolly and lock Hayden Long resulted in another try, wide out on the left.

Annett’s conversion attempt then hit the other post, but this time dropped for the two points and his side led 12-0.

Wirral’s third was served up when Ilkley replicated their actions - a superbly struck penalty kick deep in his own 22 by Callum Smithson took his side 30m from the Wirral line, but then another penalty conceded at the ruck, more chat and another 10 metres.

The Wirral jumper took the line unchallenged and made a full 50 meters before offloading to supporting flanker Matt Ringer, who touched down out wide on the left. Annetts' kick unbelievably went over off the far post again and it was 19-0.

What remained of the half belonged to Ilkley, but again, that defence held out to half-time and Ilkley’s Andy Malley saw yellow for slowing the ball down in a ruck.

The second half started with an Ilkley knock-on and it wasn’t long before the visitors claimed their bonus point try, when a classic No 8t pick up from the base of the scrum allowed winger Matt Loon in the right-hand corner. Annetts' magnificent kick made it 26-0.

Ilkley did not cave in, however, but they could have done without Morgan picking up a yellow for tackling a man off the ball.

Wirral took full advantage of Ilkley’s reduced number and a deft kick over the home defence by stand-off Craig Harvey was scooped up by Ringer to go over for his second. No conversion this time though.

The Ilkley faithful were rewarded with some entertaining play by the Dalesmen - these boys certainly don’t give up - and with Archie Elgood on for Morgan, Ilkley continued to put some decent moves together.

Winger Finn Gateley did mange to get over the line but was adjudged to have been held up, moves from the the resultant scrum being well defended yet again.

The remainder the match was characterised by yet more Ilkley endeavour, matched by yet more sterling defence, but the icing on the cake from the Wirral viewpoint came from broken play, when an Ilkley attack broke down.

A swift departure from their 22 with the ball carrier well-supported and Annetts was on hand to taken the scoring pass. His kick completed the scoring for the day at 38-0 to Wirral.

With the possibility of another regions-based reorganisation of the leagues next season, Ilkley’s fate is not yet known, but it is clear that the self-confessed semi-professional clubs are always going to fare better than the purely amateur and this is reflected in the current league standings.

Coach Rhys Morgan has done an amazing job actually getting a first 15 out, with a stupendous amount of injuries to cope with, leading to the number of different names featuring on the teamsheet reaching well into the 40s.

Ilkley are now eight games away from the end of the season : six of these are away and none of them can be regarded as easy.

However, with the spirit demonstrated so clearly on Saturday, these players fear no one and after all, they are playing for the love of the game.