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Dalesmen Put Blaydon To The Sword

Saturday 17th February 2024, Ilkley RFC vs Blaydon RUFC, Venue: Stacks Field, Ilkley, Result: ILKLEY 43pts, Blaydon 8pts

Following a couple of dry days in the week and with the help of a generous topping of sand ILKLEY’s marvellous grounds team produced a very decent surface on which to entertain a large and noisy crowd at Stacks Field. Under an overcast sky the pre-match warm up had revealed yet another team boasting a fair smattering of big lads from the North East.

Indeed, things look a tad ominous as referee Mr Adam Robson got the game underway.

After some untidy and unpromising play in midfield, ILKLEY were pushed backwards in a scrum and then conceded a penalty to put the visitors 5 metres out. A drive from the lineout was frustrated with an obstruction and ILKLEY escaped with a penalty of their own. 

This set the tone for the rest of the game, ILKLEY getting the better of the penalty count and Blaydon failing to pay heed to their indiscretions.

Once the opening salvos had been dealt with, the Dalesmen’s’ confidence levels rose perceptibly, and with that the crowd noise was perceptibly louder.

A quick penalty inside their 22 was typical of ILKLEY’s ambition. The ball was sent out wide to find full back Ben Magee at his awesome full speed. On half way he delicately chipped over the midfield defence, beat the last defender in the air and made the final 10 metres at full tilt to bag a scintillating trademark try. Outstanding! 5-0 after 7 minutes.

The game became scrappy with both sides going close but, either making errors or, in Blaydon’s case, continuing to get the wrong side of Mr Robson’s accurate and astute judgement.

Charlie Morgan added three penalty goals to Blaydon’s one in an outbreak of high tackles one of which saw Ollie Ham take an enforced 10 minutes on the naughty chair. Jack Popely took his place up front and the excellent Jordan Cummins had to give way for a short rest. Ilkley ended the half restored to full complement but defending their line for a good five minutes. Once again the defensive line held strong, as it has all season. 

14-3 at the interval was satisfactory but probably not enough against a side that had put 50 points over ILKLEY early in this topsy turvy season.

Coaches Rhys Morgan and Andrew Clithero tweeked the back line bringing on Will Marlow for Ben Walker and, later in the game, Steven Costello for Max Jones.

Blaydon clearly didn’t have long enough in the changing room to revise the rule book, conceding two penalties in quick succession. The second for a high tackle for which they took a turn in the chair.

Charles Morgan slotted that penalty. 17-3.

Then he made a great clearance to half way and ILKLEY turned over the resulting lineout ball. Marlow to Jones, to inspirational skipper Joe Lowes and through a gap on the 22 to score the killer blow try. Morgan added the extras. 24-3.

Just when it seemed the Dalesmen were moving into overdrive they were called upon to man their defences once again. The immense Adam Booth turned over what looked certain to be a score. A relieving penalty followed but back came Blaydon. Several more sorties were repelled but finally the opening came for Alex Dodds and the boys from Blaydon were back with just a sniff. 24-8. 22 minutes to play.

Walker returned to replace Elliot Morgan whose return from injury had been solid and effective.

It took another show of brilliance from Magee to knock the stuffing out of the visitors. Taking a kick into his half at blistering speed he burst through the first line of defence, saw another gap in the second line and made all to score under the posts. 31-8.

Jones returned to allow Lowes to get patched up and revitalised.

Blaydon suffered a serious looking leg injury as Alex Powell made ground out of defence. Powell was up and on the case calling Mr Robson to stop play.

Ilkley were now uncatchable and unstoppable and were kept out only by some brave and solid defence but the visitors succumbed again to that man Magee. He won an aerial battle for the ball, slipped it out to Walker. Walker darted in in for the bonus point try in the corner. 36-8. Ten minutes left.

Rob Sigsworth had put in a big shift up front and he was given a breather as Popely returned for the duration. Booth took a well deserved rest as Lowes returned to see the match out.

Blaydon were down but not out and continued to battle but their offending continued to frustrate some enterprising play. They gifted the ball back to a side now brimming in confidence. One final attack was repelled at first, but a scrum on halfway was won and those Dalesmen were swarming. Jones was the beneficiary and he swept in out wide and made course for the posts. A nudge from a Blaydon defender caused him to overstep the dead ball line. Mr Robson correctly ruled, no try, drop out from under the posts. 

Providentially for the unfortunate Jones, ILKLEY burgled the restart and put Lowes in for his brace. Final score 43-8. Five league points sends the Dalesmen into the heady heights of sixth place in this tough North one East league.

After what was a disappointing display at York, this great result is testimony to the midweek hard work of coaches and players. The penalty count was substantially reduced, the lineouts worked well, albeit one or two crucial ones were squandered, the scrum was solid against a visibly heavier pack and ILKLEY were inspired by their mercurial full back.

Technically the two bottom clubs, Pontefract and Doncaster Phoenix can still catch ILKLEY, this result will have them looking up at Alnwick who are just two points above in fifth place.

ILKLEY’s 2nd XV put up a brave show at West Leeds but were just edged out 31-17.


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