AFTER their scintillating display against Consett the week before, the obvious question was whether that kind of performance would be repeated against a side that had come down with the Dalesmen an eon or so ago.

A great deal of water has gone under the bridge since then though and with Morpeth having lost at home against Ilkley’s next opponents, Old Brods the previous week, the form book was still full of blank pages.

Well, it’s filling up now, as Ilkley’s somewhat stuttering first half was eclipsed by an outstanding second, featuring the return of Harry Harrison with a hat-trick and another try bonus-point to add to last week’s.

Furthermore, Ilkley restricted their opponents to just three points and didn’t concede a try for the second week in succession.

It was Morpeth who opened the scoring though, even if Ilkley did have the better of the opening exchanges, when their backs drifted offside giving centre Jake McKay a simple pot. 3.0.

Back came Ilkley, but having failed to deal with a bouncing ball in the swirling wind, Morpeth won a scrum. In went the tackles, but Ilkley failed to roll away, giving McKay a chance to increase his side’s lead. The kick drifted wide though.

A superlative catch on the full by Full-back Kodie Brook from a J-H Johnson drop-out almost led to a score and there were another couple of near misses, when a little more composure might have yielded the points.

McKay fluffed his lines again with a penalty kick rebounding from the crossbar, but still Ilkley could not quite put the finishing touches to some very promising moves. That was to change though.

A scrum won 30m from the Morpeth line and a patient build-up allowed Number Ten Ben King to slice his way through for Ilkley’s first points. Johnson’s kick was awarded at first, but then overturned by referee Mr.Grayson, but the visitors were ahead on 34 minutes.

The final 5 minutes of the half saw Ilkley establish a superiority in the tight with two crushingly good scrums, which augured well for the second half.

At just 5 points to 3 ahead, but playing with the stiff breeze now, Ilkley might have lost their slender lead, had McKay’s last attempt of the match gone over, Ilkley conceding at the breakdown, but it was not to be and now was the time for the visitors to crank up the pressure.

A move was called at a line and after a bewildering succession of dummy runs and sleight of hand, Kristin Dobson put Harrison in for his first, Johnson converting.

Within five minutes, the excellent Jack Maplesden cleaned up a wobbly tap-back from a line and this time it was Number Eight, Steve Costello’s turn to set up Harrison for his second, Johnson adding then extras to make it 3.19.

On the hour, Harrison bobbed over for his third and his side’s bonus-point after some exhibition handling by the Ilkley backs. The conversion was missed, but it was game over at 3.24.

A desultory ten minutes ensued, both sides making excursions into opposition territory. Ilkley’s defence held, but alas for the hosts, the fifth and final try of the match was scored when Skipper Joe Lowes seemed to snaffle a loose ball and touch down in the corner. Johnson’s superb conversion from the left-hand touchline concluded matters for the day at 31.3 in favour of the visitors.

Once again, Ilkley’s superior fitness and handling skills won the day, but crucially, they were not bossed at the scrums, the pack giving Maplesden at scrum-half all the time he needed for his distribution to be pin-point. The old rugby adage that it is the forwards who win you the match and the backs who determine by how many, was particularly apposite today.

Ilkley now have two consecutive home matches. First up is the visit of Old Brods to Stacks field, the first for many a year. The Hipperhome side have also enjoyed a good start to the season, squeezing home at Morpeth last week and rather more comfortably against Morley on Saturday. Cleckheaton follow a week later.

After such a long lay-off, Director of Rugby, Rhys Morgan and Head Coach, Andrew Clithero have clearly done a great job in instilling a healthy morale in the camp and as the season progresses, this team will surely get even better.

Written by: Sean Crannigan