Ilkley 1st XV vs Harrogate 1st XV, 16th September, Ilkley 17 Harrogate 27
After the previous weekend’s heroics at Alnwick, there was keen anticipation at Stack’s Field for the visit of local neighbours Harrogate, who were relegated from the National League at the end of last season. Could this be the first time in the modern era that the Dalesmen put one over their Derby rivals?
There seemed to rather too many changes for comfort to the side in the match programme compared with the week before, with Jack Maplesden, Ben Magee and Ben Walker not available and Joe Lowes and Max Jones injured. However, their replacements all performed well, which should give the selectors some headaches for next week.
Ilkley earned an early penalty following a great catch and run from lock Alex Powell, but the Harrogate defence held firm and play switched to the Ilkley half of the field. Deputising at full-back Kristin Dobson was in fine form, fielding well and breaking the gain line with some dazzling running.
The impressive looking Harrogate pack started to flex their muscles and having earned a couple of penalties, menacingly made their way to Ilkley’s 5m line. Another two penalties were earned by the visitors and Ilkley’s Jack Liebster took a yellow card for his side for the repeated infringements.
The pressure eventually told and Harrogate’s stand-off Tom Steen ghosted over for the first score of the day, the try converted by Rory McNab with a quarter of the match gone.
Ilkley lost Ollie Ham to an injury and with Liebster returning, the red and blacks were more than holding their own until against the run of play, Harrogate struck again. A huge clearance kick sailed over the Ilkley defence and with players scrambling back to cover, possession was lost. A speculative kick from Steele to the left wing, a fortunate bounce and a try in the corner for left wing Ben Raubitschek. The conversion went wide, but Ilkley were 12-0 down.
With five minutes to go to half-time, Ilkley finally were rewarded for their efforts. A break-out by Dobson from deep in his own half and a beautifully weighted pass to Will Marlow on the left wing at speed left Harrogate with just one man in defence. Marlow drew his man and then found Archie Elgood in support inside, the scrum-half finishing the move with a touch-down under the posts.
Charles Morgan added the extras and the sides retired to the changing rooms with the score at 12-7 to the visitors.
Ilkley started the second half well, with another searing run from Dobson and Harrogate were lucky that what would surely have been a scoring pass didn’t go to hand and the ball somehow ended up in touch on the Harrogate 22.
An offence at the maul following the line earned Ilkley a penalty, which Morgan despatched to make it 10-12.
The game was really hotting up now and whilst the visitors certainly enjoyed more possession and territory, the Ilkley defence stood firm until a knock-on on their own 22 gave Harrogate a scrum. Ilkley conceded a penalty, kicked to their 5m line. This was closely followed by another scrum and when Ilkley conceded again, McNab kicked the goal.
Harrogate scented blood and were soon back in the Ilkley 22, the Ilkley pack finding it difficult to contain their heavier opposition. Number Eight Will Hill shrugged off rather too many attempted tackles and headed for the whitewash, only to drop the ball before falling on it.
Unlike the rest of the Wharfe Valley, referee Tom Hurdley missed the error and awarded the try to general incredulity. The gaffe was to prove costly.
With their dander up, Ilkley were soon back on the attack and following a penalty, the ball went through several pair of hands, finally landing in Dobson’s. The full-back capped a fine performance with a try close to the posts which Morgan converted - 17-22.
Unfortunately, Ilkley were unable to capitalise further on the possession they won and when the Harrogate pack stole the ball at a ruck, Steene once again kicked to the wing and this time, it was right-wing Orisi Katalu who benefitted, taking the ball on the full to score in the corner.
The conversion attempt failed, but more importantly, Harrogate had a try bonus point and Ilkley now needed at least a penalty to get a losing point of their own.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Ilkley threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Harrogate, who were now content just to soak up the pressure and preserve their lead. Morgan kicked his side to within sniffing distance of the Harrogate line a couple of times, but the defence held and when Ilkley knocked on in the final attack of the game, that was it. The scrum won, the ball was passed to Steene, who ended matters with a kick to touch.
Ilkley were very unfortunate not to get a losing bonus point, their efforts against a big, savvy side impressing all the derby crowd and they face a tricky visit to Sandal next week. The Wakefield side have not enjoyed the best of starts this season, but Standbridge Lane is not an easy place to pick points up, so the Dalesmen will have to be at their very best to bring back the spoils.