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Big win on the road for rampant Dalesmen

Alnwick 1st XV vs ILKLEY 1st XV - Saturday 9th September - Alnwick 6 Ilkley 27

The gruesome coach trip via most of West Yorkshire apart, this was a great day for the IRFC faithful, as the fist fifteen notched its first ever away win against Alnwick in sunny Northumberland by an impressive 27 points to 6.

With Alnwick’s imperious home record in mind and the disappointment following defeat at Heath last week, the Dalesmen had a task to stick to, which they did with something to spare.

A slightly hesitant start by Ilkley, misfielding the kick-off, led to a few moments of Alnwick ascendency, but after a few minutes it was the visitors who were looking sharper and when the home backs drifted offside, Charles Morgan had his first kick at goal, unfortunately pulled wide.

The hosts though looked distinctly rattled and when Ilkley won the next scrum, they went ahead as Jack Maplesden, Kieran Wileyman and Harry Smith combined to put Ben Magee over on the right wing on 11 minutes. Morgan’s attempt at goal went wide.

As so often happens after a score, a moment’s indecision coughed up a penalty to Alnwick, duly dispatched by Evan Moir to make the score 3-5.

The score galvanised Alnwick into action it was their turn to look sharp and ask questions of the Ilkley defence. A high tackle gave Moir another chance of a kick and over it went, to give his side a narrow lead, with a quarter of the game gone.

It was nip and tuck for most of the second quarter, with Ilkley looking marginally the better side, but both defences held firm until Ilkley stole a ball at a ruck. Magee broke out of defence and kicked ahead. The kick was returned,but all that did was to allow Ilkley to counter again and this attack earned a penalty in the Alnwick 22.

As the clock went into the red zone, Morgan calmly slotted the kick and his side retired to the chill of the changing rooms leading by just two points.

The second half started with a fumble by Alnwick, but Ilkley were not able to take advantage as the ball was knocked on. Alnwick scrum-half James Blackett had to retire after a lengthy period of treatment.

Ilkley put this minor disappointment behind them and returned to the attack, having stolen another ball at the breakdown. Some superb interpassing between the half-backs and a sublime floated pass from Jamie Slator to Smith on the wing led to try number two, though the conversion failed.

Ilkley hearts fluttered when a Magee clearance kick was charged down, but Morgan’s superb kick took Ilkley back to half-way.

The Dalesmen then won a scum in their own half, following an Alnwick knock-on and when Maplesden fed Magee on the blindside, the Ilkley full-back treated the crowd to a trademark 50 metre run. Drawing his opposite man perfectly, the pass inside found the supporting Maplesden who went over near the posts. Morgan’s kick made it 20 points to 6 and the question was, could Ilkley get the try bonus-point?

Some indiscipline by Ilkley allowed the hosts into their territory in what seemed the first time for a while, but in the end a couple of penalties coughed up came to naught as Alnwick seemed to have run out of ideas.

Ilkley’s next attack took them deep into opposition discomfort zone and a penalty was won. Unfortunately, an injury to Max Jones saw the flanker limp off, but the line following the kick was won with a great take by Alex Powell - not his first of the day - and from the resulting maul, Gamble nabbed the bonus point try. Over went the conversion and Ilkley were home and dry.

Puppet-master Maplesden handed over the strings to Archie Elgood, but the game was in a mood to peter out, with mistakes from both sides suggesting some heat-fatigue. The extensive injury time meant that dusk was descending as no-side was blown.

A very impressive performance by Ilkley then, who must be looking forward to next week’s encounter with local side Harrogate, who were held to a draw by Ilkley’s last opponents, Heath. On this form, a home win would not only be welcome, but is eminently within reach.

Sean Crannigan


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