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Heartbreak as York “bomb squad” provoke outbreak of yellow fever

Saturday 21st October 2023, Ilkley RFC vs York RUFC, Venue: Stacks Field, Ilkley, Result: Ilkley 20pts, York 21 pts

The rains finally stopped and a reluctant Autumn sun illuminated a near perfect pitch. Much credit to the hard working ground staff who provide daily TLC to the prime asset of the club.

A huge crowd gathered to witness high flying York take on the Dalesmen on the back of two recent victories that had propelled them to 6th in this hugely competitive league.

The game ebbed and flowed throughout though, after deploying their own bomb squad, York’s dominance of the scrum finally turned the match in their favour and the flow towards the ILKLEY line became something of a tidal wave.

An inauspicious start saw York chalk up the first points with a penalty in front from full back Liam Hessay. 0-3.

Ilkley responded well, closing York’s attack down profitably. A penalty of their own from a promising position just shaded the wrong side of the posts. From the 22 clearance Ilkley’s lineout was well secured and the ball shipped wide for speed maestro Ben Walker to go over and touch down under the posts. Charlie Morgan slotted the goal. 7-3.

Successive turnovers from Kristan Dobson and Ben Magee earned the Dalesmen a penalty shot. Morgan was on target. 10-3 after the first quarter.

A high shot and then an offside call from referee Mr Sam Potts gave York 3 points. 10-6.

Ilkley went straight back and won another shot at goal with a superb counter ruck. The kick was again offline.

York came back with a penalty but couldn’t secure the loose ball which rolled into touch. From their lineout the Dalesmen won a penalty on the York 10 metre line. Morgan put a beauty into the corner (but, why not another kick at goal?). The lineout was lost but York were guilty of holding on and this time Morgan put it through the sticks. 13-6.

The strange absence of prop Lewi Jackson from the York starting line was put to rights as the large ominous figure of a man was sent into active service. He didn’t disappoint!

Ilkley’s stubborn defence was called upon to stop what looked like a certain score when York had a lineout 2 metres out. But ILKLEY benefitted from a penalty when the driving maul was ruled illegal for obstruction.

York pressed hard through at least 3 penalties and the first ominous signs of Jackson’s presence as an ILKLEY scrum went into reverse.

However the Dalesmen spent the dying minutes of the half pressing on the visitors’ line with at least half a dozen scoring chances, finally relieved by Mr Potts’ whistle for holding on. How important was that? York kicked to touch and the teams headed for the interval tea and the half time rousting from their coaching staff and a few running repairs from the physio’s and medics.

The second period started well enough. Ilkley survived a penalty lineout drive at their line with a scrum as the ball was dropped in the act of scoring. They got back to half way when Morgan dinked a lovely 50/20 to win a lineout inside the York 22.

Great pressure with several more scoring chances finally were rewarded as skipper Joe Lowes went over to score out wide. Morgan added the extras. 20-6. 35 minutes to play.

Then it all went wrong!

Ilkley were on the back foot defending as though their lives depended on it. Having brushed off two York scoring opportunities the ball was sent wide to York’s wing Mitch Ashman. Ilkley’s Walker was up fast and a loose arm, maybe Walker’s, maybe not, knocked the ball down. Walker saw yellow, very much to his chagrin.

Luke Gamble and Josh Pinder were sent on to replace the injured Lowes and the indefatigable Jack Popely to try and counter the clearly stronger York coalface men.

York were winning penalty after penalty and opting for the resultant set piece. Mr Potts warned, “the next one, someone goes”, and sure enough someone did. Ilkley’s own rock of Gibraltar Rob Sigsworth too saw yellow. York had the penalty try. 20-13.

Ilkley down to 13 for a good five minutes.

The final 20 minutes were too chaotic to describe, but here goes:

Players were being changed like the weather. Lowes back for Adam Booth who had been solid as a rock. Jordan Cummins for Lowes was next.

Ilkley defending like super humans.

Walker resumed duties.

York winning scrum penalties one after another. Another penalty on their 22 saw ILKLEY marched back 10 for discussing the play with Mr Potts. Finally York scored again, this time out wide.

Too wide for Hessay. 20-18.

Sigsworth returned, but straight away the excellent big fellow Alex Powell didn’t get low enough in the tackle and he too saw yellow.

Could the 14 Dalesmen hold on?

They held firm for what seemed an age but finally a penalty gave Hessay the chance to take the lead. It sailed over. Heartbreak 20-21.

It was another four minutes before Mr Potts brought the pulsating, tough, uncompromising affair to a close, but not before the unfortunate Sigsworth was carded again for debating the laws with Mr Potts. His yellow card turned red.

One league point was scant reward for a huge effort which looked like a win for the Dalesmen, but only for an hour. Twenty minutes at the end was too much to take, but at least, after the game was gone, the Dalesmen held on to prevent any further score. A solitary losing bonus point was scant reward for an hour which should have sealed a win. But, it’s hard to win against a top side with 14 or 13 men.

If you feel inclined to assess how England felt at the end of their epic battle with the Springboks then just go ask those 18 Dalesmen and their coaching team how that defeat feels. From the balcony there is one word, “gutted”.

Next weekend there is a blank in the fixture list. The following week ILKLEY travel to Blaydon for a big game on the 4G pitch just north of the Metro centre in Newcastle.

This was a a disappointing end to a superb day when a squadron of ILKLEY Age Grade players provided a guard of honour for the teams entering the battlefield and a half time display of rugby by the younger players in the club demonstrating the future of the club and the young Dalesmen who will surely be strutting their stuff at senior level in the years to come. The future’s bright. The future’s secure. Come on you Dalesmen!

If you’re wondering why the match report is a bit garbled, then blame a significant birthday celebration for a great man, - your President!



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