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Table toppers forge five pointer against stubborn Dalesmen

Saturday 29th October 2022, Ilkley RFC vs Billingham RUFC, Stacks Field, Ilkley

Result: Ilkley 7 pts, Billingham 31 pts

Match Report by John Hope

Billingham came down the A1 to a murky Autumnal Stacks Field with three teams, an under 16’s side who lost an entertaining match to Ilkley’s next generation 21 points to nil.

That was a good as it got for Ilkley’s two senior sides, the second XV going down 24-12 in a brave display by a young ILKLEY side.

The 1st XV have had some great games against today’s visitors over the past couple of decades and, whilst this was not one of their most memorable encounters, it was a full blooded affair with an hour of scoreless rugby bookended by 3 Billingham tries in the first 25 minutes and 2 more in the final quarter.

After a promising start ILKLEY coughed up a gift escape, then another to present Billingham with a penalty in front of goal. Opting for the scrum they fed the omniscient Peter Evans with a chance to deploy a delicate training ground chip over the ILKLEY back line for centre Luke Wilson to gather and touch down. 0-7.

A couple of ILKLEY chances were created from Billingham indiscretions but both came to nought as the slippery ball just wouldn’t stick to hand.

Ben Walker was making his presence felt as he felled bigger men in their tracks, a constant feature of the game.

A penalty put the visitors back on the front foot and from the lineout the ball was moved wide with some alacrity for wing Matthew Kirby to score. Joe Roxby’s kick from the touchline was good. 0-14.

A penalty to ILKLEY as Billingham looked certain to score brought relief to the large partisan crowd and exemplified the Dalesmens’ tenacity in defence.

Then a rare lost lineout allowed Billingham back into the attack zone. It was cleared once but a sumptuous back line move saw Kirby in for his brace. Roxby’s kick was wide but 0-19 was an ominous score after just 25 minutes.

There followed 15 minutes before the interval and 20 after through which ILKLEY matched Billingham in attack and defence.

In their urgency to get the bonus point try Billingham no. 8 Mike Walton saw referee Mr Tom Doig’s yellow card and the man advantage saw ILKLEY create some good chances but Billingham’s defence proved as good as their attack aided and abetted by more of those unforced ILKLEY errors.

A good break by JH Johnson took ILKLEY to 5 metres out. 3 penalties in quick succession and several drives finally and frustratingly saw Jack Leibster bundled into touch.

The half time break and a team talking to was now required.

It looked to have the required effect as a penalty then another Johnson break took ILKLEY close. The error count continued to frustrate these scoring opportunities.

Ollie Ham replaced Charlie Head who had put in a big shift.

More of the same followed with territorial gains by both sides interrupted by handling errors and Mr Doig’s whistle.

Eddie Brown made way for Will Taylor whose presence lasted for all of 30 seconds as he saw yellow for a late tackle.

Still ILKLEY continued to resist bravely with 14 men. 5 penalties in a row saw the ILKLEY defence at full stretch but once again Billingham were forced to resort to illegal play and ILKLEY were able to clear.

Steve Costello’s big game was done and young Oscar Simpson replaced him.

Then at last ILKLEY struck. A superb touchfinder from the splendid Harry Smith put ILKLEY 5 metres out with a lineout the reward. The excellent Pete Erskine gathered and the ILKLEY rumble took them over for Ham to score. Johnson’s kick matched Roxby’s. 7-19. A glimmer of hope.

With Taylor back on the field and two Billingham finishers on that glimmer was quickly extinguished as the Dalesmen’s scrum was sent backwards and round. The ball popped out for scrum half Conner Foley. He picked up and went in unopposed wide out. 7-24.

Another penalty conceded put Billingham back in Ilkley’s 22. From the lineout they once again deployed their excellent back line in full to put Kirby in for his well deserved hat trick and Roxby obliged with the conversion. 7-31.

A late yellow card for Billingham and a flurry of of penalties exerted pressure on the visitor’s line but it was too late as the superb Evans ended the game.

The young ILKLEY side can’t be faulted for effort but in the end size and experience sealed the top of the table for Billingham who look favourites for the title even at this early stage of the season.

This match celebrated JH Johnson’s 202nd game in an ILKLEY shirt. A great achievement from a great player for his club.

To illustrate the power and benefits of experience, the Billingham squad in this match boasted 1751 appearances with Peter Evans making his 309th today.

Evans made an early career appearance at Stacks Field in 2008 alongside his three brothers.

This weekend the Dalesmen make the short trip to Cleckheaton, the conquerors of early pacesetters Heath in their clash of the giants at Heath. The Cleckheaton outfit looks revitalised this season with influence of the Piper brothers Richard and Matthew.

LIVE coverage from Drystone Radio with our fantastic Andrew "Dobby" Dobson providing a play by play commentary is available to listen to for up to 30 days on the Drystone Sport Show Playback here.


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