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Ilkley pull cracker to bring league season to a close

Saturday 18th March 2023, Ilkley RFC vs York RUFC, Result: Ilkley 29 pts, York 19 pts

Spring was in the air. A big and vocal crowd, many of whom had been splendidly wined and dined was full of expectation as the Dalesmen took the stage for the final league match of an enthralling season.

Whilst the ILKLEY side was shorn of two regular front rowers and vice captain Chuckie Ramsay there was an optimistic feeling that one their worst defeats this term at York could be reversed and, my goodness, they did not disappoint.

York also reported a couple of absentees from their roster. Alex Riley was debuting at scrum half.

A strong start by the visitors came to nought. The big test in this match was always going to be the scrum. Ollie Ham, Charlie Head and Josh Pinder had a mammoth task against a big and competent York front three. Whilst it creaked a bit, for the most part, they held their own ball.

The Dalesmen’s four tries were out of the top drawer.

It was a scrum just inside the York half that provided ball for JH Johnson to feed his scrum half Archie Elgood and the superb Eddie Brown. Brown had the ever excellent Ben Magee coming into the line and Magee’s perfect pass put Ben Walker in for an early score. Magee converted. 7-0.

Another scrum on half way was won. Magee was there again, this time chipping over the York defence from which the ball was won back by the tenacious back row. Several superb phases later Head plucked a high pass out of the air, beat a couple of defenders and crashed over for Ilkley’s second try. Magee was wide with his conversion attempt (he is human!) 12-0.

A yellow card shown to Head put York on the front foot as they scored a pushover try having also introduced Lewi Jackson to their front three - it was the powerful Jackson, a superb modern day jackaller, who had played a huge role in their victory at Acomb Road. William Enslim the scorer. Harry Shackleton converted. 12-7.

It took a moment of sheer class for ILKLEY to regain the initiative. Who else but Magee could manufacture a try of this calibre; From deep Magee gathered a York clearance. He made twenty metres, chipped over the bemused chasing York players, burst through their ranks to collect the ball on the first bounce and made a further 25 metres to score one of the tries of the season. That extended the lead to 19-7, Magee having converted his own try.

That brought half time. More of the same must have been the message from the coaching team, Rhys Morgan and Andrew Clithero. One thing for sure was this excellent York side would not be for lying down.

A double rainbow greeted the teams back onto the pitch.

Referee Mr Adam Robson blew for the restart. York were penalised for a high tackle on Magee, then got a penalty of their own in midfield. It was out on the full. Ilkley had the scrum but failed to capitalise conceding a scrum to York. It was well won and a superb move involving all the backs saw Jonty Atkinson go in in the corner to pull it back to 19-12.

Max Jones and Tom Dickinson were replaced by Luke Gamble and Alex Powell.

After a flurry of penalties to York and several good chances had been defended well, ILKLEY had one of their own in half way and they too showed how the game should be played with a series of phases that would grace any rugby field at no matter what level.

It yielded nothing better than another penalty, this time on York’s 10 metre line. Could Magee take the score to a two score margin? Of course he could! 22-12.

There followed a period of York pressure both in the loose and moreso in the tight.

Ilkley’s defence was heroic and stoic. They held out the York onslaught for a good 15 minutes during which their scrum was gaining ascendancy.

Finally Mr Robson signalled penalty in front. The kick at goal was eschewed and scrum taken. First the ball was spun right to left, then back again to the right and the seemingly inevitable try was scored in the corner where prop Eddie Westaby was lurking. A superb conversion from Shackleton made it 22-19.

The tension was rising in the grandstand. The noise from the York supporters was growing louder. 6 minutes to play. Would York stamp their growing authority on the game? Could ILKLEY hang on?

Well, it was neither of the two. York showed their fallibility conceding 2 penalties which provided ILKLEY with a lineout 10 metres from the York line. The ever solid Peter Erskine secured. Ilkley drove. The maul was stopped short. Out of the back came the irrepressible Gamble to charge over for the try.

JH Johnson converted to give the jubilant Dalesmen a 10 point advantage and just a couple of minutes to play. Final score, an emphatic 29-19 five point victory.

A great result and a great evening followed. The post-match atmosphere in the Stacks Field clubhouse is something to be savoured!

This result provides a good platform to go on into the Papa Johns shield and a trip to Stoke-on-Trent on 1st April and old friends Wirral on 22nd April bookending a home tie with Kendal on 15th. Success in the mini league would qualify for the North and Midlands region semi-final and the victors then go on to the final to be played at Sixways, the home of defunct Premiership club Worcester Warriors.

Together with t’owd Tin Pot (Yorkshire Cup) and Aire Wharfe Cup there is much to look forward to in April.

A really good and very fair report on this match can be found on the York RUFC website. Such accurate detail!


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