AFTER the massively disappointing 2020, the latest vintage produced by Ilkley RFC shows great promise.

The vibrant finesse of the current crop is underpinned by a steely foundation, which together have created a formidably impressive blend.

 Visitors Driffield were undone by the finesse and thwarted by the steel, as the Dalesmen scored six exquisite tries, whilst conceding none, in a 37 points to 3 victory at Chateau Stacks Field on Saturday.

Unbeaten up to this game and on top of the league,Driffield had a very good first and last 5 minutes, but the intervening 70 were all Ilkley’s.

 Harry Harrison notched his second hat-trick of the season and all the Ilkley backs had an outstanding afternoon. The whole team’s discipline was exemplary and there were no line-out jitters : lessons had been learned.

 Driffield’s good start earned them a penalty, the kick to touch taking them to the Ilkley 5m line. The line was won, but the visitors held on too long in the tackle and J-H Johnson, playing at full-back, was able to clear.

 Ilkley now got smoothly  into gear and following a scrum on the Driffield 10m line, a penalty awarded for offside was despatched by Johnson to give his side a 3 point lead on 8 minutes.

 Driffield missed a chance to equalise shortly afterwards, but then came the first Ilkley try, initiated by Johnson, but involving almost all the back line exchanging passes before hooker Charlie Head took the scoring pass. The kick for the extras was dragged wide.

 The 8-0 lead was reduced when scrum-half Joe Robinson was successful with a penalty, but Ilkley stormed back when a Johnson chip through was knocked on and advantage played. It seemed as if the ball had gone through every pair of Ilkley hands, going left, then right before Harrison ran round under the posts for the try. Ben King kicked the goal and Ilkley were 15-3 up.

 Ilkley were now very much in the ascendency and it seemed another try was inevitable as the Driffield defence creaked. Sure enough, following a scrum 10m from the Driffield goal-line, a quick pass from Jack Maplesden to Chuckie Ramsay gave the stand-off time to dummy a pass before popping one up to Harrison to take at full speed to score. Another missed conversion, but 20-3 ahead now.

 There remained enough time in the half for Ilkley to score their bonus-point try. Again the backs were to the fore, but it was a rock-solid scrum that facilitated another fine example of the passing game, this time Kristen Dobson going over on the right wing. Johnson made a difficult kick look easy and his side retired to the changing rooms for their half-time break with what looked to be an unassailable lead of 27 points to 3.

Driffield’s start to the second half didn’t go well, as a deep kick-off by the Dalesmen was cleared, but only to their 22. Ilkley duly won their line and there was Harrison again for his third try, courtesy of some more textbook handling in the Ilkley backs.

 A couple of replacements that were not forced by injury illustrated the strength in depth available to coaches Clithero and Morgan - Joe Lowes giving way to Jack Liebster and Harry Boyd on for Johnson.

 Driffield tried hard to raise their game, but the Ilkley defence soaked it all up and the visitors spent little time in the Ilkley half of the field. All the pressure and invention were coming from the home side.

 Another rushed clearance was fielded by Harrison on the half-way line and his long pass out left to Kodie Brook was duplicated to Boyd on the left wing. The replacement took his chance beautifully, beating three defenders on his way for Ilkley’s sixth and final try, with 20 minutes to go.

 All credit is due to Driffield, who came back strongly to salvage some pride and it was in this last quarter that the Ilkley side showed what they were made of, tackle after tackle repelling everything that was thrown at them.

Whilst there was no further scoring, the sizeable crowd was treated to more first class effort from both sides, but the satisfaction from the 37-3 win and the regaining of the top slot belonged to Ilkley.

 Ilkley’s next match is away at Heath, who lie just two places and two points behind the leaders, with the same number of wins and a good defensive record. It has been a while since the two Clubs met, but if today’s form and Champagne moments can be maintained, Ilkley should surely consolidate their current position as tête de cuvée.

And following that victory, head of rugby at Ilkley RFC, Rhys Morgan, has had time to reflect on his side's blistering start to the campaign
He said: "Our target before the season was to finish in the top four, but we've started really well and of course, it would be lovely to stay in the position we are in.
"We are playing some great rugby, some attractive rugby and we do have a strong squad, so I'm really pleased at the moment.
"They need to listen to what myself and Andrew Clithero (coach) and if they listen to our aims and how we want to play, then I certainly think we will do okay.
"We've also played quite a lot of the big boys now, including Cleckheaton, Old Brods and Driffield at the weekend who were first at the time of playing them.
"Heath will be another tough test on Saturday, but it's good to know that we can perform against the best in the league."
Morgan added: " The seconds and thirds are also flying and you don't find that at many rugby clubs anymore.

"It's just a great time to be around Ilkley Rugby Club."