THE Aire Wharfe Cup Final between Ilkley 2nd XV and Wharfedale Development XV provided an exciting and fitting end to Ilkley’s season and the sight of young Harry Smith holding the trophy aloft was the icing on an already pretty well decorated cake for the Stacks Field outfit.

The first XV were five points clear of the chasing pack and Champions in league North One East, the second XV had clinched their league title and the Centurions had completed a rather truncated season unbeaten.

This final would surely have been the biggest rugby occasion most of the young Ilkley players would have experienced, though the inclusion of a smattering of age and experience in the line up was crucial. Wharfedale too fielded a largely young XV though they too included some wily and heavyweight campaigners. A tough contest was expected and whilst the rugby didn’t always come up to Barbarians standard, the tension and excitement for the large crowd was tangible and audible.

The first half saw Ilkley playing down the famous slope and they certainly took full advantage.

An early penalty was sliced wide but Ilkley stormed back going close twice before a the rare sight of a surging Ilkley scrum provided the platform for Hugo Lawrence to burst through three tacklers and set the ball up for Archie Elgood. He beat two more and then popped the ball back for Alec Graham to barge over for the try. Smith’s kick was good. 7-0.

Wharfedale quickly replied with a penalty goal as Ilkley failed to clear their lines. 7-3.

Wharfedale were then pegged back by their propensity to hold on too long or get themselves in offside positions. One such penalty offence produced a lineout close to their line and referee Mr Leadbeater was again displeased. Smith despatched this kick accurately. 10-3.

Wharfedale replied with fury and now it was the Ilkley side called upon to man the barricades. Robust and stubborn defence is a calling card of the Ilkley senior sides and after several attempts to cross the Ilkley line a lineout was stolen and Sam Rowntree broke out to the 22. The ball was lost and back came the men in green only to be frustrated again. This time Smith cleared. Another defensive set was still required before Ilkley regained their composure as they once again benefitted from Wharfedale indiscretions. Two penalty kicks to touch saw Sam Rowntree, immense throughout the half, set up Smith for a great try on the stroke of half time. The conversion was good. 17-3.

Half time.

Now it was the uphill part of the contest for the young Ilkley side.

Well, it’s true to state that the second half was rather lacking in the quality of the rugby played in the first. Interspersed with penalties, the majority of which were conceded by Wharfedale and combined with handling errors from both sides there were only three more scores in this enthralling and occasionally bruising encounter.

Notably the Ilkley scrum were increasingly dominant throughout and, crucially, this superiority built as the game progressed.

Smith added two penalty goals on 68 and 75 minutes to stretch the lead to 23-3. Wharfedale engineered a superb consolation try with a couple of minutes to go, the final score finishing 23-10.