Having been warmly welcomed and well fed and watered at Pocklington Rugby Club, the Ilkley supporters were full of optimism their high flying team could reverse the result at Stacks Field when Pocklington ran out 31-21 winners, surprising even themselves in the process.

Despite several absentees due to injury or Twickenham, the Ilkley side looked strong enough to do the business at 10th placed Pocklington. However, history tells us that Ilkley have an unenviable record against Pocklington in very close results. The Ben Magee missed penalty attempt from half way with the last kick of a match lost by 22-20 in 2017 was painful, and for those of a certain age the loss in the 1976 Yorkshire Shield final was equally galling.

The highly experienced and well respected referee David Downham got the game under way and right away the Ilkley side’s lacklustre attempt at dealing with the kick-off seemed to indicate how the rest of the game would go. Ilkley looked discombobulated right from the start and quickly found themselves 3-0 down to a penalty after unusually poor handling.

A penalty on halfway produced a brief foray at the Pocklington line. Ilkley went through several promising phases before Harry Boyd was forced off his wing on a weaving run only to be felled by a crunching tackle. This was effectively Boyd’s last contribution to this game. Archie Elgood replaced the flying wingman.

The resulting penalty was kicked to touch and the drive to the line held up by a tenacious Pocklington defence and Ilkley were penalised for holding on.

A scrum offence at the other end gave Pocklington another three points – 6-0.

A 50-20 kick put the home side back on the front foot and only brave defending kept them out and won Ilkley a saving penalty kick right on their line.

Bad went to worse when Rob Sigsworth was forced off with a shoulder injury. Nat Robinson replaced the prop rather sooner than had been planned on his return to action after injury in the first game of the season.

A couple more injury scares were bravely shrugged off and the wounded Ilkley warriors dug in.

Ilkley were again knocked backwards in the scrum and Pocklington converted yet another penalty for a late tackle from in front of goal. 9-0, 30 minutes played. The Pocklington hoodoo looked menacing.

Then came a mini revival from the Dalesmen. First a penalty on half way put Ilkley within striking distance. The first drive was held up and Pocklington had a scrum. The ball was turned over and terrier Jack Maplesden released the awesome presence of Kristan Dobson. He stopped two metres short and popped the ball up to Luke Gamble to crash over. Skipper JH Johnson added the two points and Ilkley were back in the game 9-7.

The final five minutes of the half were breathtaking with Ilkley pounding the Pocklington line and the home side defending like tigers. Six minutes into added time Ilkley’s scrum faltered and Pocklington winger Sam Pattison broke with a blistering run down the left. A try looked certain until out of nowhere the figure of Harry Smith came across field like a gazelle in full flight to tackle the wingman into touch with what must be a candidate for tackle of the season. Half time.

A serious motivational team talk from coaches Clithero and Morgan was called for and, no doubt, delivered.

The second half began as badly as the first with a penalty, then a line-out on the Ilkley 22. A scrum saw Pocklington surge over courtesy of excellent number eight Albert Onelei.

Another kick sailed over to put the home side 16-7 up after 45 minutes.

At last Pocklington missed a kick at goal for yet another penalty, but that miss and the introduction of young tyro Max Jones on for Jack Leibster seemed to change the balance of the game. However, it took two yellow cards in quick succession to give the Dalesmen a modicum of belief that this Herculean but ugly battle could won.

Even against 13 men Ilkley struggled to find cohesion. It took a penalty to add to the Ilkley score. 16-10

Another penalty attempt sailed wide diverted by a sudden heavy gust of wind.

The Dalesmen’s propensity for errors was compounded with yet one more Pocklington penalty to take the score to 19-10 with 20 minutes to play.

A game ending injury, this one to Steve Costello, meant Leibster was returned to the fray.

Now out of losing bonus point territory a penalty from 30 metres out was vital to restoring at least that small crumb of comfort. Johnson’s kick was good. 19-13.

Could the unlikely (and frankly hardly deserved) become reality?

Ilkley upped their game but Pocklington were not ready to give way. Two penalties to touch were resisted but at the cost of yet another Pocklington yellow card. A penalty and a drive for the line was held up short. Pocklington had the scrum to relieve and effectively win the game. The strong Ilkley scrum put Onelei under pressure at the back and somehow the ball was loose. Maplesden swooped and fed Dobson whose diagonal run saw him score wide out. 19-18.

Skipper Johnson had the kick to clinch it. A nerve of steel was required. His nerve held. Over it went. 20-19.

Surely Mr Downham would blow for time, but no. There were still two excruciating minutes to play. The kick off was not dealt with and, horror of horrors, young Elgood was adjudged guilty of foul play. He saw yellow. The penalty kick from the touch line was wide. Time was up.

The Ilkley players and supporters were ecstatic. The Pocklington players and supporters were in disbelief.

The four league points could well be the most important of the season because arch rivals Heath were beaten at home by rivals Driffield – this league will surely go right to the wire.