AN almost perfect September day in the perfect setting of Stacks Field saw newly promoted and unbeaten in two, Old Brodleians back at a ground they hadn’t visited since both clubs were in Yorkshire league One in 2013-14 season.

A tough battle was eagerly anticipated by the large crowd including a stellar cast of lunch guests and their hosts.

Ilkley were missing hat-trick hero of last weekend at Morpeth, Harry Harrison. Jack Brown and Harry Boyd came in to the back line. Jack Leibster and Hugo Lawrence were at no.8 and 1 respectively. Archie Elgood, Jack Popely and the returning Tom Dickinson took their place on the bench.

The match was pretty much all it was cracked up to be, a full on tussle up front and some superb flowing backs play, particularly by the Dalesmen in the first half.

Ilkley scored four superb tries, three in the first half and just one in the second. JH Johnson, in his sixth incarnation, this time at centre and as goal kicker converted two of them and put away four penalty kicks to add to his try, the first of the game. This came after a superb backs play and an almost certain score for Kristan Dobson. From the resulting line out Johnson broke through to score out wide.

The second was from deep when the seemingly unstoppable wrecking ball Johnson burst through several tacklers, put up a glorious chip and chase to collect and send skipper Joe Lowes in under the posts.

Luke Gamble was the next initiator with a tremendous pick-up and break down the left after the Brods scrum had been moved backwards. Again the ball was moved out via Johnson and inside to Jack Maplesden to score under the posts.

The fourth bonus point try was well into the second half and after a spell where it looked like Brods might get back into the game. However when Ilkley finally got back to playing in Brods’ 22, a penalty after pressure on the line saw fly half Benny King barge over for the score.

In between the excitement of Ilkley tries Brods were making a real scrap of it. They scored 5 minutes after Ilkley’s first from a penalty and lineout and powerful drive for the line to level matters at 5-5.

They did their cause no good by tackling high – twice! in one Ilkley attacking move. The first of those incurred a yellow card.

Johnson added two penalties and a conversion before half time to give the Dalesmen an apparently comfortable lead 23-5 at the interval. Brods, more familiar with Yorkshire One protocols remained on the pitch whilst coach Andrew Clithero had his men in the changing rooms for their half time talk.

The second half was a roller coaster with Brods in no mood to give any more ground to the home side.

They began stringing phases together and getting the upper hand at scrum and lineout time, significantly after Ilkley changed the front row round. It was the other aspect of Ilkley’s play this season – strong and uncompromising defence that was called upon. Time and again Brods were threatening the Dalesmens’ line. Time and again they were repelled with Gamble pulling off a couple of remarkable steals close in.

Ilkley’s cause was not helped by a yellow card for a high tackle. A temporary air of foreboding seemed to envelop the ground. Thankfully it was temporary!!

The seemingly impregnable dam was finally breached after 25 minutes and Brods were right back in the game at 23-12. Clithero changed things round up front and some form of equilibrium returned to Ilkley’s game.

The closing minutes saw Ilkley sensibly taking play deep into Brods’ territory and the final try and two more penalty goals (yes, points scored could be important!) put the Dalesmen out of site and Brods’ courageous fight back evaporated.

A couple of injuries late on give some cause for concern. Nat Robinson hobbled off and Benny King twisted his ankle scoring his try.

This was a sterner test than the two openers of the season but Clithero’s men coped well with the challenge. There is another big challenge coming this weekend as the Piper brigade from Cleckheaton are visitors to Stacks Field.

The League table makes good reading with Moortown hot on Ilkley’s tails. Written by: John Hope