As the country recovered from the recent meteorological storms, Stacks Field braced itself for the visit of the league leaders Keighley. A side bolstered by Bradford and Bingley folding and an influx of Keighley Albion RL lads.
The scouts had predicted a no nonsense approach from a large, physical side with direct running backs.
A large crowd swelled in the stand as kick off was delayed. The carrier pigeon to the referee Henry VIII had gone awry and he was unaware of the earlier kick off time. Slightly flustered he blew to start the match 40 minutes late. He clearly blamed Ilkley's admin and set about possibly the most bizarre 25 minutes of game management ever encountered. Ilkley received three yellow cards in regular succession for persistent infringement and collective annoyance. There were penalties for, well, just about everything. It's fair to say they had the book thrown at them. The one plus factor was none were for dissent and throughout this time Ilkley continued to try to play rugby. Whilst this was going on Keighley made hay. They kicked to the corner and scored a catch and drive try and converted a penalty.
Ilkley did manage to escape the whistle and the opposition and made their way into the opposition half. Sonny McGuigan, was alert and saw the lack of a blindside at a ruck. He pounced on the opportunity and scampered away from the cover defence to score near the sticks. A fantastic try from a scrum half gaining in confidence. Rahmbo slotted the conversion.
The resumption of play saw Keighley back in the home 22. Again another whistle flurry saw another yellow card and another try as Keighley's giant ginger lock dived over for a converted try.
With Ilkley teetering on the edge, Captain Gazeley rounded on his troops. They answered the call and hit back with a bang. The Sainsburys prop once again proved to be the games best at show and go, as his dummy sent him clear and over in the corner.
Ilkley were now back in the game at 12 - 20. Keighley seemed stunned that the home team, despite the card situation, would not lie down. The game went to a different level of intensity. Carries were determined and tackles were being used as an offensive weapon.
Unfortunately one went too far. Keighley's 13 picked up his opposite number and speared him to the ground. No injury was caused, however it revved the crowd up and Henry VIII was not having any of it, brandishing a straight red. Keighley's referee evaluation changed instantly. Ilkley seized their opportunity, starting to run wider against a depleted defence. This culminated in Rocket Rochford latching on the end of slick passing to power over the line.
The first half ended 19 - 20.
First Half Stats Ilkley gave away 11 penalties, 3 yellow cards Keighley 2 penalties, 1 red card Ilkley 15 passes, 19 tackles Keighley 19 passes, 13 tackles
The first half had been chaotic to say the least. However Ilkley knew that discipline would see them victorious.
The second half was easier on the eye and blood pressure. Ilkley threw the ball around with good breaks from the number 12 and Nascar Binns racing away from the front line defence. There were some excellent carries from the Ilkley Tower Scott, Louis Getthrough and the team hairdresser Atack. Samlent assassin Vernon, chopped down the Keighley redwoods as they advanced. It was good to have him back with Jackie G enjoying the physical challenge. Mr Ed Westlake galloped between rucks.
Ilkley took the lead after a ball was miss kicked in the opposition 22. Sabre Sabey, gathered the ball and tore through the back three to touchdown under the posts. The players were delighted to see the determined winger score.
More tries followed from Jean Pierre, always primed near the opposition line, another from Sonny McGuigan's great support play, Fergus Ramergé with a rumbustious run. Probably the pick of the tries was Rocket Rochford's second. Ilkley ran from their own 22 passing the ball across the backline, putting the Rocket away. Still with plenty to do he broke clear on the halfway. A determined defender was not giving up the chase and was gaining ground. A great slow down and acceleration foxed the would be tackler and he was away. A fist pump salute to his onlooking harim before planting the ball down.
Unfortunately every silver lining has a cloud. From the restart the ball was fed to the Ilkley 12 who broke clear and was looking to pass the ball wide. A cover tackler brought him down with the ball awkwardly under his arm. The impact caused an immediate break of the clavicle. The game stopped and Olly was taken to Airedale. It's feared he will be out for a considerable length of time due to the severity of the break.
There was still time for another red card to Keighley due to foul play and dissent and the game was finished off in fitting style. The Keighley 10 was pressured whilst taking a kick in his own 22. Three players charged the ball down. It bounced for Ramergé and he scored.
The game finished 59 - 25. I'm not sure anyone would have predicted that after 20 minutes.
Second Half Stats Ilkley gave away 6 penalties, 1 yellow card Keighley gave away 3 penalties, 1 red card Ilkley 43 passes, 29 tackles Keighley 30 passes, 32 tackles
Ilkley showed real resilience to bounce back from last week's disappointing defeat. It was a very tough match, where to a man they all stepped up to the plate and showed what they're made of. Thanks as ever to the fantastic crowd. The atmosphere was fantastic and a real lift for the players.