Match Report By John Hope
Driffield RUFC vs ILKLEY RFC, Kelleythorpe, Driffield,
Result: Driffield 43 pts, ILKLEY 18 pts
A chilly breeze and a clear sky greeted two teams who had battled out some classic matches over recent times. Ilkley had taken the honours here in an epic contest last season when the home aficionados had praised the Dalesmen’s performance as the best they had witnessed in the season. The ILKLEY supporters are left muttering questions as to what and why it has gone wrong after 5 defeats on the bounce and 8 out 11 at the half way point of the current season.
This match started well enough with Harry Smith taking on kicking duties this week to allow club stalwart, the ever versatile JH Johnson to concentrate on his restoration to the back row. Yet another wave on unavailabilities had prompted a re jig.
Smith’s penalty goal gave the Dalesmen an early 3-0 lead. The lead lasted 5 minutes when, after a kick went straight out an ILKLEY scrum was disrupted by a powerful Driffield front five to cough up a penalty to the Woldsmen. They opted for the touch kick and lineout and scored through a worryingly big hole in the Ilkley lineout. 3-5.
Another score followed as an ILKLEY lineout was lost on half way and a high kick swirling the increasing breeze was spilled giving Driffield a chance to spread the ball wide for a second try. 3-10.
Then a remarkable piece of high skill and foresight worthy of anything seen in Qatar saw Johnson hook his foot round the ball as it bobbled towards touch and send a back pass 20 metres to Smith who put debutant Keiran Wileyman on a great line to burst into the red zone. Wileyman found the charging Smith who set up a great position for his forwards to pummel the Driffield line at least 6 times before going over for the score. 8-10, 20 minutes gone.
Ilkley now had their tails up and, for quarter of an hour, slugged it out giving a great account of themselves. A couple of unforced errors and a penalty kick that rattled the upright frustrated what looked something like a real resurgence by this ILKLEY side.
Then, after only 25 minutes, Driffield decided to change their two props for replacements of similar size and physicality (what a luxury that must be for any coach!). Notwithstanding the Dalesmen managed to secure the first scrum but, failing to make touch twice, they coughed up an easy penalty to increase Driffield’s lead. 8-13.
Still there was an energy and desire in the ILKLEY side. They won a penalty on half way which Smith executed with aplomb. The kick of the match from half way set up a lineout 5 metres out. Safely secured by the indefatigable skipper for the day Pete Erskine, the drive slowly but surely made its way up to and over the line aided and abetted by all bar two of the fifteen ILKLEY players. The Dalesmen were back in front courtesy of Smith’s conversion. 15-13.
That brought the curtain down on the first half. There was even an air of optimism amongst the small band of ILKLEY supporters. Could the half time mug of tea and a good rallying speech from the coaching team keep this newly found tempo up?
Whether it was the gathering gloom or a simple drop in concentration but a squandered lineout on half way set up a Driffield attack and after pretty much the whole team had given or taken a pass they crossed the line for a try. 15-18.
Ollie Ham entered the fray replacing Ed Martin.
A high kick downfield was taken by Johnson but, with little support, he was forced to hold on a second or two too long for referee Mr Sam Potts’ liking. Driffield took the goal option to extend their lead to 15-21.
Still the fire and energy remained and whilst at least a losing bonus point was in sight, hope remained too.
An injury to perennial battler Jack Leibster gave Alex Graham a chance to shine.
Soon the clearly evident athletic football talents of Wileyman shone as he intercepted a Driffield pass and made half the pitch before exchanging passes with the galloping Smith before the ball was stifled illegally. Smith converted the penalty goal. 18-21. 15 minutes of the half gone.
Now it was a victory the Dalesmen had in their sights.
Make no mistake they had their chances. Two lineouts from penalties set the ILKLEY backs up with a great chance but the ball was spilled.
A Driffield escape was thwarted by a knock on but the ILKLEY scrum shot backwards yielding a penalty. Driffield were back on the front foot. The ILKLEY defence held strong. Another Driffield scrum saw Martin return for the hard working Rob Sigsworth, but still the scrum was upended. A penalty to touch followed by a strong effort battering the ILKLEY line was concluded by a collapsed maul and the seemingly inevitable yellow card. Ham was picked out by Mr Potts as the token villain.
Sigsworth was obliged to take up his position up front so winger Jack Brown was sacrificed for the enforced 10 minutes with a man light.
Driffield opted for the scrum. Ilkley’s eight held the pushover back but the ball went wide to the wing with a missing defender and the try which was to break the camel’s back materialised. 18-26.
Ilkley hung on in there for another 10 minutes.
Eddie Brown replaced Kodie Brook.
The Dalesmen still stuck to their task but were unable to make any serious inroads and weren’t helping themselves as lost lineouts, a scrum under pressure and unforced errors saw the light dimmed and then quickly extinguished. The final 5 minutes were unwatchable as the rampant Woldsmen overran a battered, bruised and frankly demoralised Dalesmen. 3 tries were conceded in as many minutes.
Final score 18-43.
There will be wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth when this performance is analysed during this week ahead of another difficult away match at second in the table Alnwick.
It is not easy to put your finger on where the exuberant try scoring machine of last season has gone. Yes, the personnel has changed in some positions, one or two key men are absent for various reasons, the opposition is definitely much stronger than last, especially in the engine room department, but ILKLEY are now staring at the abyss with only Scunthorpe and West Bridgford below them.
Everything now rests on getting it right, as this defeat marks the end of the first half of this 22 match season.
The Dalesmen’s second XV travelled with the 1st XV to Driffield with a young inexperienced side depleted by late (unacceptable) backwards and came off decidedly second best in a 75-0 defeat against a consistent Driffield second string from a club that regularly fields 4 XV’s each week. Those halcyon days are confined to Ilkley’s history books and indeed, to most clubs’ history books. The age of the one team club is upon us.
Thankfully, Ilkley can rejoice in having three XV’s. The third XV registering a big win against the Hornblowers from Ripon. The score, 54-7.