A BIG and partisan crowd turned up at Stacks Field for one of the North One East’s fixtures of the season.

In the presence of Mr David Hunter, President of Yorkshire RFU and a host of top notch pre-match lunch guests Ilkley were desperate to avoid a second successive defeat and Heath equally desperate to supplement a winning run that would take them back to the top of table.

This was to be a close battle, at times attritional and quickly looked as though one score would settle it. Heath had worked out how to beat this Ilkley side in the match at Heath in October when they recovered from 31-7 down to score 24 unanswered points in the final 30 minutes of a pulsating encounter.

A tricky cold wind gave Heath the advantage in the first half and, mercifully, the heavy rain had held off to give a good playing surface lovingly and painstakingly prepared by the Ilkley ground staff.

Ilkley’s opening salvo looked promising with several phases taking them into the Heath 22. Heath coughed up a kickable penalty which was spurned in favour of the touchline.

Heath had a scrum following an Ilkley error at their own lineout. A penalty at scrum time was taken as another scrum. The push was good and number eight McLaughlin barrelled over for the first try of the match. Cartwright added the conversion. 0-7, 15 minutes played.

Whilst both sides had fire power in their backs, this was a battle of defences with both sides taking play through the phases into enemy territory. But neither strike force could find the spaces they needed to unleash their potential.

Ilkley got a score on the board after 30 minutes with a penalty from in front after a trademark Luke Gamble turnover and penalty kick to touch. Chuckie Ramsay the scorer. 3-7..

As half time approached Ilkley turned over a Heath lineout inside their own half and suddenly were putting a series of excellent phases together. Ramsay found a few inches of space in the Heath back line. He glided through to find wing Archie Elgood who flew in in the corner. Momentarily Ilkley led 8-7.

A rare error under the restart gave Heath a scrum almost exactly where their scoring scrum had set. This time the Ilkley defence held firm under huge pressure and just when it appeared they had cleared their line Mr Smith signalled a penalty for offside.

The lead had gone, 8-10 at Half-time.

Into the second- half and once again the intensity told and a scuffle broke out on half a way.

Ilkley now had their heads up, despite the continuing damage to their scrum which Heath had targeted from minute one.

Firstly JH Johnson put up a beautifully weighted bomber deep into Heath’s 22. Harry Boyd was screaming after it. He outpaced the whole Heath defence to claim the touchdown just short of the dead ball line. Mr Smith ruled no try and a drop out from the goal line.

From the line out off the dropout (which went straight out) Ilkley span the ball wide and found Kristan Dobson on a great line.

He burst through a bunched Heath defensive line and one or two of his own men to touch down under the posts.

This time Mr Smith ruled obstruction and ordered a Heath scrum.

Elgood got ten minutes to rest as he was ruled to have deliberately knocked down a Heath chance to break.

Jack Maplesden broke well but the support play just couldn’t break the Heath defence.

Finally Boyd got a great pass in open space and looked as though he could outpace the two Heath defenders, however he was snared and his pass to Harry Harrison was a micro second late. Another chance was gone.

But the half was by no means all Ilkley. Heath looked dangerous especially when trucking it up through their big forwards and giant fly half. Ilkley most definitely had their fair share of defending to do.

They did it with their usual tenacity and resilience.

Neither side broke the line in the second half and with time rapidly approaching Heath sensibly took advantage of stoppages to run the clock down.

Mr Smith blew for time., the score finishing at 8-10 to Heath.

Ilkley travel across the hill to Bradford & Bingey this Saturday.