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Piper brigade prolong Dalesmen’s losing run

Saturday 5th November 2022, Cleckheaton RUFC vs ILKLEY RFC, Result: Cleckheaton 21 pts, Ilkley 9 pts

Match Report By John Hope

Ilkley dropped to perilously close to the relegation zone in Regional North East league as they recorded the third match in a row without bagging a solitary league point. A seemingly endless change personnel in the ILKLEY side saw a welcome return of Archie Elgood at scrum half and the return of Kodie Brook in the centre. Oscar Simpson made his first start for the senior side in the back row after impressing from the bench. Finn Kelleher debuted on the wing and promising scrum half Fred Gazeley, in his first season of senior rugby, took a place on bench alongside Max Jones and Ollie Ham.

Compared to their opponents this was a young side brimming with potential but lacking the grizzle and bulk of Richard and Matty Piper and co. who had beaten erstwhile league leaders Heath the previous week with 3 drop goals from the evergreen Dale Breakwell.

The two Cleckheaton tries came from relatively innocuous positions, one in each half.

The first, a charge down which fell at speed just in front of Ben Walker. His attempted pick up was knocked on and swallowed up by another of Cleck’s experienced contingent Mikey Hayward who exchanged passes with flanker Joe Flanagan to bag the first. It was successfully converted.

Their second came as injury time loomed after a surge forward by the home side. ILKLEY pressure had yielded a free kick but a penalty was coughed up on the Cleckheaton 22. They made more ground from the lineout on half way and a scrum on the ILKLEY 22 was won. Probably their best backs move of the game was spun out wide for full back Bailey Smith to score in the corner and deny ILKLEY their losing bonus point.

In between there had been plenty to give the ILKLEY supporters hope of a comeback throughout the match. They had a reasonably equal share of possession with Pete Erskine, Tom Dickinson and the big presence of Will Addyman securing plenty of good ball. Once the difficulty of a heavier pack had been addressed Steve Costello was able to deal with difficult ball and Elgood got it away from the forwards efficiently.

Indeed, Ilkley spent longer in Cleck’s 22 than the home side in Ilkley’s in the first half. Ilkley’s problem was the final couple of metres and Cleck’s extremely solid defenders.

The rest of the scores were from goals.

The first came after 10 minutes after a charge down was knocked on by Cleckheaton on the ILKLEY 22. It was a chance to escape. Ominously the scrum was pushed backwards and even the tenacity of number 8 Steve Costello couldn’t rescue the ball. Jack Marshall slotted the resulting penalty for Cleck. 3-0.

The second was as outrageous a drop goal you’ll see after Harry Smith’s clearance to half way. Breakwell took it facing backwards, spun round and the ball climbed up and up and eventually crept over the bar. That was a kick in teeth for the Dalesmen. 6-0.

Then JH Johnson got the chance to hit back and his penalty from 40 metres sailed through the sticks. 6-3.

The first of the two tries followed to make it 13-3 with a quarter gone.

He missed with another attempt from wider out on the stroke of half time.

With an 10 point deficit ILKLEY had shown enough promise to get back into this tough match playing down the slope in the second half.

Jones replaced Simpson for the visitors.

It was much of the same though. Cleckheaton defended the threats posed by ILKLEY and ILKLEY holding out against the Cleckheaton periods of possession and territory with equal tenacity.

Ham replaced Costello.

Johnson converted another long range penalty after a high tackle on himself to bring the losing bonus point into play. 13-6.

After escaping a Cleckheaton foray ILKLEY lost a lineout and were then caught in possession inside their own half to allow Cleck’s Jack Marshall to slot his own long distance penalty to make it 16-6. The pain was tangible.

Ilkley still pressed but Cleckheaton were in their faces all the time and promising positions were squandered until Johnson took advantage of another Cleck indiscretion to bring that bonus point back into the equation. 16-9.

With 10 minutes to play Will Addyman suffered a blow to the face and had to retire. Young Gazeley came onto the wing. Not his preferred position.

Then with a couple of minutes to go the final blow was dealt and, with that try making it 21-9, the excellent referee Mr Adam Robson blew for time.

There was one bone of contention during the first half. Elgood had made a great break from half way. He threaded a grubber to Cleck’s 5 metre line. Cleck knocked it back towards the dead ball line but the ILKLEY wing flew through and touched the ball down before it crossed. The action was live-streamed on Facebook but with no TMO at level 5 the unsighted referee rather strangely awarded ILKLEY the scrum 5 metres. That’s sport! That’s rugby! When your luck is down………

Doncaster Phoenix are this week’s visitors to Stacks Field and, with the Dalesmen looking up at all bar the vastly improving West Bridgford and Scunthorpe, a win is sorely needed.

The match will be in front of a host of ex-players all of whom will have their own take on how they would play the game.


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