Saturday 17th April - Ilkley 61 vs Kendal 19 - At Stacks Fields
Match report by Sean Crannigan
After a month’s lay-off, including a cancelled away game at Stoke, no one would have been surprised if the Dalesmen had looked a little rusty as Joe Lowes’s men took the field. The side was pretty much at full strength on paper, so the rugby-starved crowd was hoping for some exhibition rugby.
Happily, this was delivered by the spadeful. The two sides shared 80 points and 12 tries, three quarters of each being produced by a sparking Ilkley fifteen. Despite being under the cosh for most of the game, Kendal never gave up and two of their three tries came after the Dalesmen had stopped their scoring with 61 points on the board.
Ilkley went on the rampage straight after the opening whistle and after some doughty defence from the Cumbrians, Joe Lowes opened the scoring with a powerful run from the end of a line-out. Chuckie Ramsay added the extras and it was 7-0 after just 9 minutes.
Kendal’s first sortie into the Ilkley half took a while coming and what little danger that posed was well snuffed out. Ben Magee’s run from defence set up J-H Johnson for a well-worked try, but Ramsay’s kick hit the post.
Magee was to prove the most deadly of all the thorns in Kendal’s side and when Lowes’s aggression caused a defender to slice his kick, the ball fell into the Ilkley fullback’s grateful arms. There followed a mesmerising run and a score under the posts, the try converted to make it 19-0 after 24 minutes.
Now it was Kodie Brook’s turn to impress as the big centre swatted off several tackles before yet another try under the posts and with the kick sailing over, Ilkley were out of sight at 26-0.
Another poor kick from the Kendal defence again fell into Magee’s arms and another glorious run was ended with the tireless Charlie Head on hand to take the scoring pass, improved again by Ramsay to nudge the score on to 33-0.
There was just enough time in the first half for Kendal to fight back and win two penalties in succession that took them to within 5m of the Ilkley line. The line won, scrum-half Joe Allday spotted a gap to dot down and Aaron Stephen’s fine kick brought the score to 33-7 at half-time.
Kendal had the better of the opening ten minutes or so of the second half, but it was Ilkley who struck next. A well-won line by Tom Dickinson and a training ground move saw Ramsay pop up a pass to J-H Johnson who had appeared out of nowhere to go in under the posts - 40-7.
The Ilkley three-quarters were now on unstoppable form and it was Kieran Wileyman next on the scoresheet as another sumptuous move was finished with aplomb as the game entered the final quarter. Ramsay’s kick was his last of the game as he was replaced by Ed Brown at 47-7.
There followed two tries that were strikingly similar in their execution. Both were set up by Magee’s mazy running and finished by speedster Ben Walker. Magee showed he could also kick a bit too, converting both.
From the Ilkley point of view, that was it, but with still a quarter of an hour to go, Kendal showed they were not there just to make up the numbers. Firstly, Number 8 Steve Nelson finished off a well-controlled maul to make it 61-12 and then fullback Dan Shorrock completed a move in the backs for the last try of the day, duly converted by Stephens to end the game at 61-19.
Ilkley now face the long trip to Wirral, where a draw would be enough to take them into the Papa John’s Community Shield semi-final, which would appear to be against either Scunthorpe or Oundle.
The competition has attracted justified criticism, as the potential distances involved for many Clubs appear to be in direct contradiction of the RFU’s desire to cut down on travelling.
Having cut down the number of League games, which has cost Clubs the income of two home matches, to cobble together this competition is yet another example of the muddled thinking that emanates from Twickenham.
Still, this was good game-time for Ilkley and playing is undoubtably better than not playing. Another performance like this augurs well, not only for what little remains of this season, but for next season too.