After the disappointment of last week's away trip to Huddersfield, numbers were boosted with key personnel returning.
Perfect autumnal lunchtime weather greeted Skipton for Sunday's league fixture. Not a breath of wind, dry with a crispness of cold in the air. A day to rub your hands together in expectation. There was a large crowd down to support the local derby, with Andrew Cltheroe, first team coach, watching the progress of the youth of the club.
Skipton now fielding half a dozen new players from the recently folded Bradford & Bingley side were large and formidable. Ilkley were giving away at least a stone a man in the forwards.
There was a steely look in the eyes of Ilkley players as they ran on to Stacks Field...they meant business.
Chris Sheryn was in charge and blew to start proceedings. Skipton immediately showed their hand with the game plan to run their Clydesdales at the smaller Ilkley pack. They were rebuffed time and again as little progress was made. Ilkley's tackling was strong, however a little high in the view of Mr Sheryn and a succession of penalties were conceded. Ollie the team hairdresser Atack, was pulled out and given a final warning.
The game was played largely in the middle of the park, Ilkley occasionally showing adventure trying to spin the ball wide, but a couple of dropped passes frustrated the players. The scrummaging and lineouts were spot on though, providing a constant stream of quality ball. A stand out player in the loose was Toby 24 carat Bullion Bedford. He was punching huge holes in the defence by hitting the line at speed.
The pressure was mounting on the Skipton line and Captain Gazeley dived over for the try. The conversion slid by the posts.
The try seemed to take the pressure off the Ilkley side and they played more freely. Once again taking play to the Skipton line in almost a carbon copy Captain Gazeley slid over again. This time Rahmbo made no mistake. Ilkley were now dominant across the field. Skipton could only produce scrappy ball and the standoff attempt to clear downfield only for the Captain to charge down the kick. The ball bounced kindly and scrum half Sonny McGuigan picked up and showed decent pace to run in from 40 metres. Rahmbo added the extras.
From the restart Ilkley applied more scrum pressure, forcing the opposition's much larger pack backwards. The referee forced them to stop the drive, as per the age related law. Ilkley soon had the try line in their sights, as continued bullocking blasts from Bullion Bedford bashed the beleaguered brethren. One such carry took him over the whitewash for a richly deserved try. Rahmbo successfully kicked the conversion.
This brought the half to a close, bonus point already in the bag.
The second half was a similar arm wrestle with a similar style of play deployed by Skipton, with Ilkley's defence more than a match.
A couple of loose kicks under pressure on their own line allowed the backs to move the ball wide. On one such occasion Rahmbo intelligently brought in Head Boy Ballard. He straightened the line and slid through the creaking defence to score. The opposition were becoming upset at the scoreline, which saw the only piece of bad tempered play when the fullback put his knees into the back of the Head Boy. This caused an altercation and the referere asked that the Ilkley Tower be substituted to calm the situation down. Fred Scott had played his usual "A" game performance, carrying out the unsung graft that wins matches.
The Ilkley 12 slotted the conversion.
The referee started to penalise Ilkley's tackle height once again, which allowed Skipton to build pressure with penalties. The reinvigorated heavy horses ran hard at the Ilkley line. They defended bravely, however Jean Pierre was adjudged to have committed a red zone penalty and was sent to the bin. The attack was rebuffed, however Ilkley did not learn and the tackle height continued to be highlighted. The Skipton scrum half took a penalty quickly only to be instantly tackled by Bill Braveheart Wallace. The referee produced another yellow card, so Ilkley were down to 13. Now light of two forwards the Skipton cavalry forced their way over for a converted try.
Despite being low on numbers Ilkley produced some lovely rugby, breaking out of defence with flair and imagination. Play was taken into the Skipton 22, where Ilkley had a now uncontested scrum. Praise goes to the powerful work of Russ Abbot and the Sainsbury's prop.
The ball was fed to Rahmbo at 10 who called a scissors ball. The Ilkley 12 hit his line perfectly, at full tilt he blew through the defensive cover, Scott Gibbs style, to score the games final converted try.
Final score Ilkley 40 Skipton 7.
A great performance by the Colts to bounce back in style. Their defence was impressive, however their running with the ball in hand was a pleasure to watch. They played as a team and treated a great crowd to a stonking performance.
Special mention goes to Skipton, who never let their heads go down and played hard right to the final whistle.