Harrogate 12 v Ilkley 3
Rather surprisingly, the away match at Harrogate was on. On a pitch deemed unfit less than 24 hours earlier, the groundsman went where 99.9% of his counterparts would not. In racing terms it was heavy. It was actually difficult to walk across without losing a boot.
Anyway, it was the same for both teams and Ilkley were fielding a strong squad, with the introduction of a new BGS musketeer, Adeeb Husayn Razmi at prop.
The match had additional importance as it was a league and Yorkshire Cup double header.
A very important toss was lost as Harrogate elected to play into Storm Isha.
Referee Ivor Lotatats commenced proceedings and Ilkley kicked to Harrogate. The pattern of the game was clear from the outset. Exiting the car park end via the boot would be very difficult, so lots of phases of play would be required. Ilkley's well organised defence put the gate forwards under pressure. They were accomplished at securing the ball. Some may question the persistent side entry, however you play to the whistle. Eventually this was spotted and Ilkley gained a penalty. Rahmbo stepped up and slotted it through.
The Ilkley were buoyant and their confidence could be seen in some great backs moves putting the Head Boy into space. He ate up the quagmire and had the fullback to beat. Unfortunately the support was too slow and the fullback made a good tackle. The attack petered out. Later in the half another great break from Jake Rochford returning to fullback roused the crowd, however gate's defence was effective.
This was a keenly contested match and eventually the penalties started to be awarded. One was kicked to the corner and the catch and drive, one of the colts potent weapons was keenly anticipated, however Ilkley fluffed their lines at the most important moment.
Ilkley had another shot at goal late on, out from distance, however it failed to trouble the scoreboard. 0 - 3 at half time. The knowledgeable spectators wondered if Ilkley had done enough with the wind at their backs.
The second half is easy to report on. Harrogate were camped in Ilkley's half and there was a barrage sent towards them. Ilkley defended mightily, with some truly heroic tackling and cover play. To a man Ilkley gave their all. 3/4 way through the second half saw Harrogate break through. As they pounded the Ilkley line their inside centre, off a dummy miss-move found space. The Ilkley 12 tried valiantly to stop the now airborne centre, however it was in vain. He crashed over near the posts. The conversion was a formality.
Ilkley tried to break the shackles of Storm Isha and a very strong Harrogate team, who were playing right on the edge of the laws of the game. The efforts took a set back when Ivor Lotatats gave an Ilkley player a yellow card for an infringement in the ruck. This was tough justice given his own penalty count. The sin bin was largely taken up by scrumages and re-scrumages, as players struggled to keep their footing.
Back to a full complement Ilkley continued to try to force the play, as time was running out. This was frustrating as half breaks were knocked on. The conditions were difficult and the pitch was awful. As Ilkley tried to break out from inside their 22 the ball was knocked out of a leading arm carry. Harrogate went blind and a couple of quick passes saw the winger dive into the corner. The try was unconverted. The game restarted with a knock on from Harrogate, followed by the ball being kicked out. The ref blew full time, as he'd clearly had enough.
The players from both teams deserve credit. The match was played in great spirit and there were some fantastic moments of sportsmanship shown by both teams. Thanks also to the Harrogate coaches, who handed Ilkley a clean, dry ball at every lineout, not just their own. It's the little things that go a long way to show the up and coming players of the future how the game should be played.
We wish Harrogate the best of luck for the rest of the tournament. Ilkley move down to the plate, where they have a bye into the semi final.
Thank you to the players, coaches and parents who travelled to support the lads. Next week's fixture is at home to table topping Keighley.