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A Battle To The End!

Saturday 15th October, ILKLEY RFC vs West Bridgford, Stacks Field

Ilkley 22pts, West Bridgford 15 pts

Match Report by Sean Crannigan

Another new name on the Ilkley fixture list, West Bridgford and the Dalesmen’s sixth game of this interesting season. With no points on their account, the formbook suggested that this would be yet another heavy defeat for the Nottingham side, not least as it was widely agreed that Ilkley’s selection was the strongest so far.

J-H Johnson deservedly was the centre of attention, this being the all-rounder’s 200th first team appearance and he didn’t disappoint on the field either, his opponents generously naming him their man of the match in the Clubhouse later in the afternoon.

Ilkley’s kick-off went straight into touch and almost immediately, the visitors demonstrated that they hadn’t read the formbook and were in no mood for a caning. Ilkley conceded a penalty for offside on their 22 and Ben Dickinson put his side ahead with the goal.

The early score certainly served to wake the hosts up and on their first real attack, a penalty for a high-tackle was won and the kick rifled by Johnson to 5m from the West Bridgford line. A catch and drive ensued before flanker Jack Liebster broke off to score Ilkley’s first. Johnson’s conversion attempt was held up in the stiff breeze.

Any hope that normal service might be resumed for Ilkley was dispelled almost immediately as the visitors came back strongly. Liebster retired with a shoulder injury, to be replaced by debutant Oscar Simpson and then a well-worked move from a scrum saw right wing Seyi Ajaigbe scoot over in the corner, Dickinson’s kick suffering the same fate as Johnson’s earlier attempt.

So, 5-8 after seventeen minutes and clearly, a less one-sided match than forecast on the cards.

Ilkley’s next attack was spoiled by a messy line and then a penalty for a needless high tackle, allowing West Bridgford to clear, but better was to follow with their next assault. Kristan Dobson started things off, fielding a high kick before a trade-mark run through a despairing defence. On to to skipper Joe Lowes allowing Ilkley to gain a few more metres before a beautifully weighted pass to the supporting Ed Brown saw the acting full-back touch down close enough for Johnson’s kick to bring the score to 12.8.

The home side still wasn’t clicking though - an attacking line lost and then a yellow for Stephen Costello, Lowes off injured and some poor kicking out of hand. Their defence though was good, snuffing out anything anything that West Bridgford could offer. However, there was little doubt that half-time came as some relief to the Dalesmen, with the score the same at 12.8.

The second half started with little noticeable difference from how the first had ended. Both sides were striving to gain the upper hand, with neither achieving that goal. West Bridgford broke the deadlock when a kick through was misfielded by the Ilkley defence, allowing that man Ajaigbe to hack though and win the race to touch down. Dickinson’s kick was good and Ilkley were behind again at 12.15.

Ilkley fought back well and finally started to look like living up to the pre-match forecasts. A Johnson penalty took his side to within five metres and from the resulting line, lock Alex Powell crashed over for the score. Unconverted, Ilkley led again, 17 points to 15.

Back came the Dalesmen from the kick-off and winning a free-kick, the scrum option was taken, some 30 metres out. Dobson’s fine run was halted illegally, but the penalty was taken quickly, the ball flashed out wide and Brown scored his second of the day wide out on the right, Johnson’s boot failing again.

The bonus point score meant that Ilkley had to close the game down, not exactly a specialist subject for the Stacks Field men, with fifteen minutes remaining. The visitors did their utmost to force at least a draw and at times, it seemed their hosts were going to oblige, coughing up penalty after penalty.

The crucial moment came when Peter Erskine stole a West Bridgford line following a penalty and with that, surely the game was over. But no, referee Mr Garland had other ideas and the Ilkley faithful had to endure another gruelling passage of play before another line won enabled the ball to be hoofed over the stand to conclude matters.

So the five point win, whilst expected, was hard-earned, with some comfort learning that the visitors had produced their best performance of the campaign. West Bridgford certainly deserved their first point of the season, which will surely improve for them.

Ilkley move up a place to fifth after what many referred to as the definition of an ugly win and are on the road again next week to old rivals York.

No easy matches in this league though, so another ugly win will do just fine, thanks.

Sean Crannigan

LIVE coverage from Drystone Radio with our fantastic Andrew "Dobby" Dobson providing a play by play commentary is available to listen to for up to 30 days on the Drystone Sport Show Playback here.


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