top of page

Valiant Performance from Ilkley's U17s

Match Report from Ben McDonald

Following two weeks of South Yorkshire opposition not fancying the trip up the M1, Ilkley quickly rearranged the fixture. They took the opportunity of a friendly to shuffle the pack, with Louis Clough going into the front row, Jack Gilbert playing at blindside and Ollie Spink at number eight.

A clear dry Stacks Field welcomed Bradford & Bingley Colts. An accomplished side who would provide Ilkley with a stiff test. Graham Summersgill, the ex combined services veteran, officiated, in his usual open but disciplined style.

Ilkley left the changing rooms in jovial spirit, appreciating the comedy hairstyle Captain Gazeley was sporting. This however was soon knocked out of them by a Bs side who were very large, physical and highly mobile. Ilkley were pushed backwards in early exchanges, and it became apparent the impacts were moving up a couple of notches in their ferocity. Bs made inroads into Ilkley's half towards the 22. A clever kick from the stand off landed ten yards in front of Ilkley's posts with full back Jake Rochford chasing across to cover. The old adage of never letting a rugby ball bounce bit Ilkley hard as the ball took an amazingly kind bounce straight into the arms of the attacking fullback who walked under the sticks. Ilkley's first try conceded in 2023 was softer than one of Jaco Peyper's dismissals. Ilkley gathered under the posts to raly whilst the straightforward conversion was kicked. Unfortunately, immediately after the restart Ilkley lost Rochford. A preexisting shoulder injury was exacerbated when putting in a huge hit on the opposition number 8 who was on the charge. Ned Pullen came on to replace him.

Ilkley came back with real grit and their forwards drove in relentlessly at the Bs solid defence. The first scrum resulted in an Ilkley penalty, after a tremendous drive buckled the Bs front row who stood up under the pressure. Ilkley continued to dominate the scrum for all the match. They pushed hard for a breakthrough, however a mixture of knock ons and passes that weren't in the same postcode as the intended recipient broke down any continuity of play and sustained pressure. Bs started to become weary as they were continually defending. Rattled, their tempers flared. This was Ilkley's chance, oh no yet another misplaced pass saw Mr Summersgill blow for halftime.

Unfortunately the second half was pretty much a repeat of the first. Ilkley had high hopes. The Bs were wilting, the game plan was to run their forwards around the pitch as much as possible to cause further fatigue. Unfortunately the Ilkley line out became too predictable. Bs stationed the Emley Moor Mast at the front of the line and proceeded to win or disrupt every subsequent line out. Ilkley also deployed a shortened lineout which allowed the Bs forwards to clog up the midfield, one of Ilkley's most productive areas for the season. Bs came right back into the match and drove for Ilkley's line. The defence was firm and Taz de Molin made a strong tackle to dislodge the ball from a short drive at the side of a ruck. The ball was quickly fed by young Oscar Binns, and on to McDonald who broke forward, feeding Ben Ballard. With space on the outside of his marker he pushed the loud pedal and accelerated away. Alan Wells would have been proud as he went through the gears outstripping the defence. Crossing the 22, halfway and 10 metre line, Bs fullback made a half tackle to slow progress and chasing hyenas completed the kill. Swift ball was recycled through two further phases before the now expected knock on. It was so frustrating for the Ilkley light infantry.

B's tactics changed and they kicked away possession, turning Ilkley around at every opportunity. Their scrum half was pulling the strings. A further attack on Ilkley's line provided a questionable penalty for ripping the ball off a player diving for the tryline. The penalty was kicked and Ilkley were down 10 - nil.

Not disheartened Ilkley produced their best phases of play and the ever present Fergus Ramage, who shows his county quality every week, made yet another forward run. Breaking tackles he set the perfect ball and the continued pick and goes took Ilkley to the Bs 22. The most reheased training ground move; a Max Freeman show and go, saw him sprinting for the line, only to be caught by a last gasp stretch. Ruck after ruck resulted in the smallest of gaps on the blindside. Scrum half Sonny McGuigan Gibbons sped down the line, with millimeters between his right boot and the touchline he managed to squeeze into the corner. At last, Ilkley had penetrated the strong defence. A heavy contact on the conversion missed the target. With three minutes to go, Ilkley required a converted try. A position Ilkley have been in before.

Ilkley fought straight back into the Bs 22 and threw everything they had in the locker at the Bs line, however once again a knock on halted progress. With Bs just needing to kick for touch from the resulting scrum, one of their props felt unable to continue. This would have resulted in an uncontested scrum and game over. Ilkley showed their true sporting spirit and provided them with a second player, a prop. Ilkley proved their scrum dominance again and crushed the Bs scrum. Penalty. Ilkley elected a scrum. Ilkley won the ball and, you guessed it, knocked it on. Full Time whistle, Ilkley 5 v Bradford & Bingley 10.

Ilkley gained some valuable experience, playing against opposition who were very different from the norm and an age grade higher. Bs fielded five first team players and commented that Ilkley had been their most difficult Colts match of the season in terms of physicality. A real feather in their caps.

On a different day, if the ball hadn't been dropped so many times, they would have scored three or four more tries. The performances of Ramage and Del Molin were the highlights around the park. They were in the mix for the hard graft, carried well and supported their teammates' breaks. Another highlight was a cameo from William "Bill" Wallace, a player who is only starting his rugby journey. A real Neil Back type of performance, carrying well, setting up quick ball and securing possession with great body shape.

Ilkley will go again next Sunday, if opposition can be found.

bottom of page