ANY apprehensions about Ilkley’s line-up, much changed from the previous Saturday’s selection, were quickly nullified by an outstanding team performance in both attack and defence.

The players with comparatively little first team experience - Archie Elgood, Max Jones, Harry Smith and Floris van Oekel - all played out of their skins and it was also a pleasure to see the return of Kodie Brook after his injury at Driffield.

Morpeth had been on a good run recently and certainly had their fair share of possession. Ilkley’s tackling though was ferocious, though a somewhat alarming number of penalties were conceded.

Ilkley’s first attack saw Kristan Dobson set up Van Oekel and it took a brave head-on tackle by Morpeth’s full-back, Andrew Telford to prevent the score. Regrettably, Telford was concussed and took no further part in the game. Play switched the other way and the visitors took the lead with their first penalty kick when Ilkley went offside at a ruck.

The lead was short lived as an Ilkley penalty found touch five metres from the Morpeth line. The line was won and the advancing maul was held, but the defensive line had gone offside. A quick tap and the ball found its way to Luke Gamble who made no mistake.

Five minutes later and Ilkley had an attacking scrum from which Elgood broke, dummied his opposite man and scored in the right-hand corner. Johnson’s second conversion of the day was a magnificent effort.

Morpeth attempted to strike back quickly and were rewarded with a penalty, which made it 14-6 but Ilkley’s retaliation came swiftly when a blind-side move saw the ball reach Harry Boyd to score on the wing, Johnson’s kick improving his side’s score to 21-6.

The remaining 15 minutes of the half belonged mostly to the visitors, whose efforts were rewarded with two penalties following some indiscipline from Ilkley.

At 21-12, Morpeth were still very much in the game, though Ilkley did have an opportunity to put the game to bed before half-time. Unfortunately, the final pass was judged forward and that was the first 40 minutes done.

Morpeth started the second half well and soon had Ilkley under pressure. A line was lost, but the ball was held up in the maul. A scrum was awarded, which the Morpeth pack bossed, Ilkley conceding a penalty. Morpeth wisely opted for another scrum, but then unwisely chose to pull it down allowing the much relieved Ilkley defence to clear.

What Ilkley needed was a break from the increasing Morpeth pressure and this came when Johnson intercepted a pass between the two Morpeth centres. Making a good 35m, Boyd then appeared on his shoulder in support and took the scoring pass on the half-way line. 28-12 now and the bonus point in the bag.

The Dalesmen were now in the mood for more and shortly after the kick-off from the last score, skipper Joe Lowes popped a short pass to centre Dobson, who found himself in a lot of space amongst a scattered, tiring defence. A mesmeric run fully half the length of the pitch led to Ilkley’s fifth try, followed by another superb Johnson kick.

Ilkley now looked supremely confident with ball in hand and Boyd in particular continued to wreak havoc. It came as no surprise then when a rampant pack secured turnover ball to present Jones with a chance to barge his way through some desperate tackling to score his debut first team try and Ilkley’s sixth and last. Johnson made it six from six and that was the end of the scoring for the day.

Or was it ? Morpeth clearly had some pride to salvage and that they did, when a clever chip through the Ilkley back line took them deep into the Ilkley half. Winger Jack Wood scored in the corner and Hornby’s conversion from the touch line concluded the day’s kicking class as the final whistle went, Ilkley running out 42-19 winners.

The five-point win takes Ilkley to second place on level points behind Driffield. However, Ilkley have a game in hand on the Woldsmen.

Third placed Heath though did not play today and so have a game in hand on Ilkley. However, the remaining fixtures for both sides would suggest that Ilkley have the easier run-in and with pitches drying out, the conditions should help too. Saturday sees the visit of Morley for Ilkley.