Saturday 24th September - Ilkley RFC vs Sandal - Ilkley 26 pts, Sandal 22 pts
Match Report by Sean Crannigan
After the preceding three games this season, with a solitary - but well earned - win away in deepest Nottinghamshire last week, Ilkley had old foes Sandal to contend with at Stacks Field. Over the years, the posh end of Wakefield boys had enjoyed something of a hex on the Dalesmen, dating back decades - would today prove any different?
Well, yes, as Ilkley held on to secure a bonus-point victory, 26 points to 22 in a game that had the well lunched spectators at times on the edge of their seats.
A sparkling start saw the home team ahead by 12 points in as many minutes, wingman Floris van Oekel touching down after some very attractive, sweeping back play. J-H Johnson’s conversion made it 7-0.
Full-back Jack Brown scored in almost exactly the same place minutes later and whilst Johnson’s conversion attempt hit an upright, surely a lead of 12 would be enough of a foundation to secure a comfortable win.
The visitors had other ideas though and having dusted themselves down, brought the fight back to Ilkley. Now it was the Dalesmen’s turn to defend, as Sandal enjoyed a lengthy period of possession. A well-worked move involving forwards and backs resulted in a try for Ilkley Old Boy, Nick Carolan to make it 12-5, Macgregor’s conversion attempt failing by some margin.
Max Jones came on to replace Joe Lowes and immediately made his presence felt, but Ilkley’s propensity to conceded penalties was to cost them dear, as the Sandal pack edged their way towards Ilkley’s goal line. The pressure told as a clean line-out catch enabled lock Gerraty to power over. Once again, the conversion was missed, but it was two tries apiece now.
The cut and thrust continued, with each side going close on a couple of occasions, with Ilkley looking marginally sharper. Both sides however were also subject to referee Sam Potts’ whistle concerto and a seemingly endless succession of penalties meant the game became disjointed, lacking flow.
Sandal had the chance to take a half-time lead, but the ball bobbled forward over the line and the half ended with Ilkley holding on to their narrow lead, 12 points to 10.
The second half started brightly enough for Ilkley, but the seemingly inevitable penalties saw them lose ground and after five minutes, an unusually lax defence allowed prop Groves in on the right. Macgregor’s kick was on target this time and Ilkley were behind for the first time in the game at 12- 17.
The twists and turns continued as the blood rushed to a couple of Sandal heads. First, Carolan saw yellow for a tackle on the air, Johnson kicking to 15m out. Then from the line, Sandal were penalised at the breakdown and scrum-half Allen joined his team-mate in the bin. Ilkley had the put-in at the scrum and muscled their way to the opposition line, the pack being joined by a couple of backs.
The team effort was rewarded when newcomer Alex Powell touched down after a popped up pass from Kristan Dobson. Johnson made no mistake and it was 19-17.
As is often the case, Sandal’s being down to 13 men gave rise to extra effort to those on the pitch and the Ilkley defence would not be happy with conceding another try from full-back Dom Fawcett, which gave the visitors a bonus point, as well as the lead. Macgregor’s wretched form with the boot continued though.
With their two miscreants returning to the fray, it was Sandal who now looked likely to close the game down, but a lapse in concentration saw the ball bounce loose, only to be scooped up by Ilkley flyer, Ben Walker, who sped over close enough to the posts to make Johnson’s kick a formality. That gave the Dalesmen the lead and a bonus point.
Game over ? Not on your life ! Mr Potts’ Rolex was clearly in need of a service as the Ilkley faithful had to endure a nerve-wracking ten minutes of injury time, at the end of which Sandal looked to have scored a dramatic winner. However, Mr Potts was of the opinion that the ball had not been grounded properly and blew for time: the contrast of emotions on and off the pitch was tangible.
With no fewer than six changes from the previous week, it is not surprising that Ilkley have not quite got into their stride yet, but a bonus point win against Sandal will do very nicely thanks and with next week’s opponents Scunthorpe still without a win, another away victory should be well within Ilkley’s grasp.
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