ILKLEY'S match with Cleckheaton proved to be a pulsating game between two sides with eyes firmly on the top of the table.

In front of a big crowd swelled by the long-time supporters of the club, the “Old Farts” who have been hosting lunches at the club for all of 30 years in the course of which several tens of thousands of pounds have been raised in the cause of community rugby in Ilkley and district. The club has much to be grateful for to these individuals and their guests, some of whom weren’t even born when the first lunch was held in 1991.

They were treated to a cracking game of rugby with the muscle and size of the Cleckheaton side looking set to take the spoils. With the score at 15-12 to the visitors, Ilkley had once again been repelled and were back inside their own half. A Breakwell kick deep into the Ilkley 22 was gathered by Jack Brown and then to Kodie Brook.

The strong running Brook broke out to the 22. The ball was recycled well. Sticking to the game plan, Elgood span the ball wide via Kristan Dobson and JH Johnson to reach Harry Boyd out on wing under the grandstand. Boyd stepped round one with little ground spare between him and the touchline. He was tackled by two Cleck defenders but cleverly popped the ball inside to skipper JH Johnson who now had a clear sight of the tryline 35 metres ahead.

There was no stopping the super fit centre. To a roar from the packed grandstand he touched down to edge the Dalesmen into a 4 point lead, Benny King having taken care of the extras. It was the first time in the match Ilkley had been ahead. There were 2 minutes play left on the excellent Mr Jeff Hudson’s watch.

Cleck knew they had to score a try to win. Another Dale Breakwell penalty goal to go with the 4 and a drop goal already converted would not be enough. Cleck flew back into full assault mode and, in their desperation, a flaying arm was one too many for Mr Hudson.

Flanker Jack Seddon saw red. The resulting penalty was despatched to touch. The final whistle blew and coach Clithero’s men celebrated their fourth victory on the bounce. It was a victory that had looked out of their grasp as the match drained every ounce of energy from both sets of players and most of the spectators too!

The pre-match warm up had put the red alert flags up as Cleck paraded their usual XXXL men including 3 Pipers and 2 Breakwells. They were not to disappoint their supporters splendidly bedecked in the red and white striped blazers.

Their extra bulk at scrum time was to prove a key factor in building a healthy 12-5 half time lead with 3 penalties, 2 from half way and 1 drop goal from Breakwell’s trusty boot.

Ilkley fielded debutants Charles Head at hooker and replacement back rower Will Addyman. Both made a big impression on today’s game, Addyman after Jack Leibster was injured.

Clearly Ilkley’s game plan was to avoid the arm wrestle up front and to get the ball wide whenever possible. Whilst the fluidity of recent games was snuffed out by a tight Cleck defence, when the Dalesmen did get the ball moving they regularly threatened the Cleck line.

It was a turnover off a Cleckheaton line out that produced Ilkley’s first try. Elgood scrambled the ball away to King. Finding no space to pass, he put up a delicate chip which bounced high above the Cleck defender’s head forcing him to knock the ball behind his try line.

The Cleck defender couldn’t field the ball and it spewed out off his legs for the onrushing Boyd to touch down. 6-5.

The Cleck lead was increased to 9-5 with a penalty from half way. Giving away penalties anywhere in their own half was potentially costly to the Dalesmen.

The half closed with a Breakwell drop goal to set the visitors up for a strong second half at 12-5.

Into the changing room went the home side to receive coach Clithero’s words of encouragement, no doubt backed up by some well-chosen words from head coach Rhys Morgan.

It was an inauspicious start to the second half. A Cleckheaton scrum, on Ilkley’s 22 coughed up a penalty for offside. Breakwell slotted. 15-5.

Ilkley continued to manufacture opportunities and a lineout on Cleckheaton’s 22 saw the Dalesmen attacking the visitor’s line. Two or three phases later the ball reached the rampant Johnson. He broke one tackle and lunged for the line. Momentum and steely determination carried him over to score. 15-12. Half an hour to play.

It was too close to call. Would the bigger more experienced Cleckheaton forwards prevail? Would the Ilkley free-flowing backs manufacture another chance?

Wily campaigner Richard Piper niggled Ilkley number 8 Steve Costello who responded with a little fairly harmless jab. Unfortunately Mr Hudson only saw the jab and Costello saw yellow.

It was Cleckheaton with the extra man who looked more likely to strike as the Ilkley set pieces were tested. They drove two lineouts deep into Ilkley territory. Two penalties were their reward but Breakwell opted for touch and the lineout. Penalty goals may have clinched it. Cleck drove and over the line. The Dalesmen’s brave defence held up the seemingly inevitable try. Mr Hudson’s arm went up, not for the try. Penalty to Ilkley for a swinging arm and a warning to Cleck.

To their credit Ilkley had survived the ten minutes with 14 men without conceding. Now it was their chance to respond and respond they did.

The final 20 minutes had everything you would expect of a cracking West Yorkshire derby so brilliantly capped by the Boyd break and the Johnson try to put the seal on the best £6 worth of club rugby you could possibly hope to see.

Final score: Ilkley 19-15 Cleckheaton

Ilkley now sit proudly atop the league with 19 league points, 3 ahead of Cleck who picked up a losing bonus point and 4 ahead of the chasing pack. It is one of the chasers who provide the opposition for the next league game on 9th October when Ilkley travel to Moortown 3pm kick off.

Ikley 2nd XV took on Yarnbury 2nds on the back pitch and ran out winners 43 pts to 16.

Scores by Jack Wolstencroft (2), Max Jones, Phil Warboys, Ricky Palacio and a penalty try with Harry Smith kicking the goals. REPORT BY: John Hope