THE first home game for seven weeks saw the Dalesmen welcome Moortown to Stack’s Field, the Leeds side having run out 18-17 winners back in October in a match that might charitably be described as feisty.

With Ilkley’s seconds finally getting a game on the back pitch, also against Moortown, there was a packed clubhouse and vibrant atmosphere to savour, the home side hoping to build on a very impressive start to the New Year.

The large crowd was treated to another excellent match, which Ilkley succeeded in winning, but not without a number of scares that had the faint-hearted reaching for the smelling-salts, or similar.

After some preliminary probing from both sides, it was Ilkley who first entered their opponents’ 22 area, where they earned a scrum, ten metres out. Clean possession saw the ball spin out to the left wing, where Harry Harrison held on to the pass after a bit of juggling, before scoring in the corner.

Chuckie Ramsay’s conversion attempt sailed wide, but his side was 5-0 up after six minutes.

Ilkley were back on the attack straight from the kick-off and having won a scrum on halfway, a mesmeric pattern of dummy runs and slick passing was going to lead to a second try, before referee Mr Downham called a forward pass. Moortown then cleared to around 40 metres out.

The line won, the Moortown defence drifted offside, allowing J-H Johnson to find touch deep in the 22. That line won too, Johnson powered his way through two tackles before releasing Jack Maplesden to crash over. Ramsay’s kick increased the lead to 12-0.

Another try-scoring move by Ilkley was again halted for a forward pass, but the home side looked to be on cruise-control. However, it was the visitors who scored next, following an Ilkley kick out of defence that failed to find touch.

Moortown set up a couple of rucks before releasing their backs and some uncharacteristically sloppy tacking allowed centre Danny Farish to burst through and score under the posts, Sheridan Farley adding the extras.

Having wrested the wheel from Ilkley, Moortown were intent on taking full control and for the ensuing ten minutes, that’s exactly what they did, aided by Ilkley’s kick-off going straight into touch.

Fortunately for the red and blacks, Kodie Brook intercepted a pass to spoil the attack, but was the adjudged to have held on in the tackle. The resultant penalty kick found Moortown on the Ilkley 10m line. Their pack ground forward and Ilkley skipper Joe Lowes halted the maul illegally, so off he went for a spell.

Full advantage was taken as lock Bruno powered over. The conversion was good and astonishingly, Ilkley found themselves 14-12 down.

The response to this setback was impressive, as the Ilkley backs with Kristan Dobson to the fore, put together some stunning moves, only to be twice thwarted by forward pass decisions, the second of which was highly dubious.

Half time came with the visitors justifiably feeling very pleased with themselves and their hosts pondering what might have been.

A scrappy start to the second half, with both sides being penalised for holding on in the tackle. Ilkley then conceded at a set-scrum and Farley kicked the goal to put his side 17-12 up.

Ilkley were awarded a penalty and took the points, so 15-17 now.

Ilkley then broke out, this time it was Moortown who halted proceedings illegally and out came the yellow card again.

The penalty five m out was tapped and Ramsay sidestepped his way neatly over the whitewash and under the posts. His conversion gave Ilkley a 22-17 lead with 15 minutes to go.

This ascendancy led to some ball-handling skills that were both attractive and effective. Sterling work by Stephen Costello and Will Addyman in broken play put the outstanding Maplesden over for his second and his side’s bonus point fourth try. Ramsay made it 29-17.

With just six agonising minutes to endure, a Moortown player was correctly judged to have been tackled in the air. A quick penalty and wingman Dennis Barndoor outpaced the Ilkley cover to score wide out left, the conversion missing.

At 29-22 there was just time for one more Ilkley attack, which led to an penalty for them. Moortown conceded again on their 22 and Ramsay decided to take his time with what proved to be the last kick of an absorbing match.

So, a five point win for Ilkley and a well-earned losing bonus-point for Moortown. With Ilkley’s next opponents, Driffield losing heavily at Morpeth, the Dalesmen move up to third place on 60 points, just a point behind Driffield and Heath, the new league leaders. However, Ilkley have a game in hand over both.

Back on the road then next week and again the week after to Scarborough for that game in hand, before the visit of Heath to Stack’s Field - three games that could prove pivotal as the season enters its last quarter.