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Ilkley Fall Short At Driffield

Driffield v Ilkley, 23rd March 2024, FT Result Driffield 34 - Ilkley 20

The Dalesmen travelled to the Wolds hoping to avenge the defeat at Stacks Field four weeks before, when Driffield had enjoyed a fairly comfortable victory. Despite last Saturday’s somewhat insipid performance against Doncaster Phoenix, it was obvious from the start that Ilkley had come to win.

Both sides are known for their fast, open style of play and that was exactly what was served up to a large, appreciative crowd. Unfortunately for Ilkley, Driffield pretty much continued where they left off in February, scoring five tries to two in an entertaining spectacle and running out winners by 34 points to 20.

Ilkley through competed well for the full eighty minutes and whilst a losing bonus point would have been fully deserved, it was not to be and the points tally for the season remains at 44. With just one match to go, it came as great relief to the Ilkley contingent when the news arrived that Harrogate had scraped a win at Doncaster, condemning the South Yorkshiremen to eleventh place and possible relegation.

Driffield scored their first try pretty much before Ilkley had touched the ball, prop Simon Pettinger finishing off a move during which the home club showed all its excellent ball-retention and offloading skills. Scrum-half Kalani Grant kicked the goal.

Ilkley came straight back though and a Charles Morgan penalty took his side to Driffield’s 5m line. The shortened line was won and then Ilkley mauled their way forwards earning a scrum, duly won. Some classic handling in the backs and Ben Magee celebrated his return with a well-taken try, converted by Morgan. 7-7 after just ten minutes.

The Ilkley full-back was held up over the line five minutes later, but Ilkley regained possession from the drop-out and in another fine display of handling in the backs, winger Will Marlow went over in the corner, Morgan’s excellent conversion doubling his side’s score.

Driffield replied quickly and when Ilkley offended at a ruck in their 22, James Watts took a quick penalty and lock Will Hughes claimed the try, though the conversion was missed - 12.14

Morgan kicked another excellent penalty after Driffield held on in the tackle and there followed a lengthy and entertaining period during which neither side could score, but not for lack of trying. The deadlock was broken when referee Steve Penfold allowed Driffield a long advantage, well defended by Ilkley. 

Driffield opted to run the ball, but the first assault wave was repelled. Eventually the pressure told though and skipper Adam Brankley crashed over near the posts allowing James Watts an easy conversion - 19.17.

There was just time left on the first half for Morgan to put Ilkley back in the lead with another excellent penalty, again for holding on and the teams trotted back inside for a warming brew with score an intriguing 19 points to 20 in favour of the visitors.

A ding-dong ten minutes opened the second half, but Driffield were looking increasingly menacing and after a series of Ilkley offences, Mr Penfold had to have a word. This time Watts opted to kick and over it went to restore the lead.

Again, it was end to end stuff for another quarter of an hour and then came the only moment of controversy in the game. With Jack Popely on for skipper Joe Lowes and Archie Elgood for Ed Brown, Ilkley won a Driffield line and mounted a counter attack. A knock-on gave Driffield the put-in and they broke blind. A pretty obvious forward pass was missed in the build up and Ilkley ran out of cover, enabling the lurking Brankley to claim his second of the day. Watts kicked a superb conversion and it was 29.20 with a bonus point for the hosts.

Luke Gamble tore the ball from his opposite man, Harry Harrison went close and Popely charged a kick down, with all the rest of their side battering their way forward, only to be repulsed time after time.

With just five to go, Driffield finally managed to break out of their territory and doing what they do best, ground their way upfield. Their efforts were rewarded when winger Tom Brankley went over in the corner to complete the scoring for the day, Watts missing the kick.

Whilst the final scoreline of 34.20 denied Ilkley that thoroughly deserved losing bonus point, the team played with great spirit, which augurs well for the clash against table-toppers Heath in two weeks time. Heath will be playing to win the league and Ilkley will be playing to stop them and the mood in the camp was suitably bullish.

Harrogate have to be favourites for the title with their game in hand, but assuming they beat Phoenix again on Good Friday, they have just one stumbling left block to negotiate - Driffield!

Ilkley v Heath is on April 6th and must not be missed.

Sean Crannigan



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