Sean Crannigan reports on Ilkley RFC against York on Saturday 22nd October 2022.
Final score: York 50 pts, Ilkley 24 pts With a strong looking selection, Ilkley travelled to Clifton for the first time in a scarcely believable eight years. A crisp and sunny Autumn day set the scene for what many expected would be an entertaining game, with both sides known to enjoy and practise running rugby. A neutral spectator would have enjoyed the eleven try show that these two enterprising sides put on, but it was the home crowd’s post match beer that tasted better as Ilkley’s most competent opponents of the season accounted for eight of those eleven. There were quite a few changes to both sides, a commonplace occurrence these days. From the Dalesmen’s perspective, it was good to see Will Addyman and Benny King back in the red and black. York clearly had something to prove, having not enjoyed the best of starts to the campaign and they tore into the visitors from the first whistle. Ilkley barely saw the ball, never mind the York half for the first 5 minutes. A certain try was saved by a crunching tackle from Floris van Oekel, but a couple of poor clearance kicks handed the initiative back to York and it was not long before their inspirational Number Eight, Willem Enslin went over, Declan Cusack’s conversion attempt going wide. Ilkley were now able to get into the game and their endeavours were rewarded with a penalty for a high tackle on 14 minutes, duly despatched by J-H Johnson to bring the score to 5-3. Back they came after a few sets of aerial ping-pong and a great steal by Stephen Costello allowed Johnson to find touch in the York 22. York cleared this assault, but Ilkley were straight back at them and another Johnson penalty took his side to 15m out. A clean catch and an impressive series of drives eventually led to lock Peter Erskine to touch down. Johnson missed the kick, but Ilkley were ahead by 8 points to 5. Taking the lead with forward power spurred Ilkley on and some truly sweet moves were then put together, the last of which was halted illegally. Another Johnson penalty and another three points. Rob Sigsworth’s temporary departure unsettled the Ilkley scrum. Yet another great Erskine take in the line allowed Ilkley to clear, but when York ran it back at them, Ilkley infringed and scenting blood, York opted for a scrum under the posts. A massive shove by their pack allowed scrum-half Toby Atkin all the time he needed to dart over, Cusack adding the extras. With only three minutes to half-time, Ilkley kicked for position, deep into the York 22. The line won, Cusack rifled a clearance kick back to Ilkley’s 22, forcing a scrappy clearance. York won the line and mauled their way to midfield, when with a seeming inevitability, Ilkley transgressed. Another scrum and the ball flashed left for wing Tom Woffendin to squeeze in at the corner. At 17-11 down, It was important for Ilkley not to concede again before half-time, but with the last move of the half, some over- ambitious passing and poor kicking to York’s big men didn’t help the Ilkley cause and prop Lewi Jackson showed a clean pair of heels to a ragged Ilkley defence to score the bonus-point try under the posts. Cusack made it 24-11 as the whistle blew, which was a cruel blow to the visitors. The second half started well for Ilkley, as the York catcher held on too long from the kick off, giving Johnson a difficult penalty kick, which the full-back took well. With just a ten point difference, the Ilkley faithful could only hope that their side had weathered the storm, but alas, York entered into a purple patch that had their supporters purring with delight. A good move seemed to have broken down with a knock-on, but the referee thought otherwise and whilst the Ilkley defence faltered, the York attack did not and right wing Jonty Atkinson went over in the corner. Cusack made light work of the difficult kick. Five minutes later, another strong York scrum led to another score by Woffendin on the left, 36-14 now, the conversion attempt hitting the post. At the next scrum, Sigsworth was carded for collapsing and then Ilkley lost the next against the head. They did however win the ball back and went on the attack, but a dropped pass was hacked through and Atkinson outpaced the Ilkley defence for his second. The conversion made it 43-14 and Ilkley were in shock. York were now in overdrive and there was still a lot of time on the clock. A very well-worked move starting in their own half ended with another try for Atkin and Cusack’s kick brought up the fifty. With fifteen minutes left and despite the score, this doughty Ilkley side raised its game and following a great team effort, a battling charge from Addyman ended with a try. 50-19. Erskine, who was having a magnificent game, was felled by a shoulder charge and had to retire, but not for long, as it turned out. A break out by Costello led to a hasty clearance by York, but Ilkley’s line couldn’t capitalise. They stuck at it though and after sterling work by Ben Walker and the pack, the ball went out to Van Oekel on the right wing for his side’s third try - 50-24.
The remaining ten minutes were all Ilkley’s, starving York of possession and throwing the kitchen sink at their hosts, anxious to leave with a try bonus-point, but it was not to be. The York defence held out and their man of the match Cusack delivered the coup de grace with a kick to touch to end the game. A disappointing result for the Dalesmen, but many positives to be taken, not least some fine individual performances and a never say die spirit. All these attributes will need to be repeated next week with the visit of second in the table Billingham to Stacks Field. This no doubt will be a tough one and with Billingham having enjoyed several seasons at this level, they will no doubt fancy their chances, but by building on today’s gutsy performance, Ilkley can produce the right result.