LAST Saturday, Ilkley completed the last of three friendly games in eight days to give their players much sought after competitive rugby for the first time since March 2020.

The first game, On Saturday May 1 at Stacks field, the opponents were West Leeds, who came with a good squad of attacking players.

They gave Ilkley a lot to think about and tested Ilkley’s defensive skills.

The game proved to be very competitive with Ilkley’s attacking play yielding four well taken tries whilst restricting West Leeds to one.

As with all three games this one was split into four quarters to allow all players game time and the coaches to experiment with combinations.

Sadly Ilkley had several injuries including a dislocated shoulder and a torn ankle ligament, as well as two concussions.

Last Wednesday, Ilkley took a very young side containing some Colts to play Yarnbury on their very fine 4G pitch.

Yarnbury also played some of their Colts. The first quarter was quite evenly contested, again at a fast pace, and it took most of that quarter for Ilkley to score their first try.

The tries then flowed over the next two quarters before Yarnbury scored two late tries from determined forward play and a good twisting run by their right wing.

Finally Ilkley went to old friends Blackburn on Saturday, hoping that the rain would not ruin the match.

It stopped and the game proved to be an excellent spectacle.

As expected Blackburn fielded some very big and strong forwards who made good ground against the Ilkley boys who stuck at it doggedly, tackling like demons.

The first two quarters were against the wind and Ilkley went 10 – 0 down despite their good defensive play. They had few opportunities to pressurise the Blackburn line.

On the turnaround, Ilkley looked more threatening playing with the wind but nevertheless went 20 - 0 behind from tries, after a fine run by the Blackburn right wing and their determined forward play.

The last quarter began with a determined Ilkley finally making good ground and their attacking play yielded three very well taken tries to bring the final score to 20 – 19 to Blackburn.

There were a few further scoring chances which didn’t come off and, against bigger and heavier opponents like Blackburn, Ilkley must convert them to scores to win these games.

Nevertheless, it bodes well as this was a very tough game which gave the Ilkley players good experience of how difficult league rugby will be in September.

Ilkley were well supported by limited numbers of supporters enjoying waiter/waitress service at their home game and at Blackburn.

Come the start of the new season in September, fans will be present at Ilkley once more, following the easing of government guidelines.

Spectators will be eased back into sporting events from May 17, with pilot events taking part across the country.

This follows the government's decision to allow outdoor sport to resume back on March 29. As the new season looms, excitement is building again.