Ilkley 31 Alnwick 20
North One East Division
With newly promoted Ilkley keen to establish their credentials and Alnwick eager to end a dispiriting run of defeats, this first ever match between these sides always promised to be a fascinating encounter and so it turned out writes Gwyn Thomas.
With pitch and weather conditions nigh on perfect, this was a little gem of a game where two evenly matched teams contested an entertaining match played in the best possible spirit.
Fielding probably their strongest side for several matches, Alnwick may have come away empty handed but with better focus and a bit of luck, they could quite easily have taken maximum points.
Alnwick kicked off, and there were handling and kicking errors from both sides until Alnwick were caught offside at a line-out on their 10 metre line.
Ilkley backs were unable to capitalise with a back movement from a further line-out and a Moralee clearance nullified the threat.
Alnwick then mounted some pressure on the Ilkley 22 metre and despite keeping the ball in hand
couldn’t penetrate a stubborn defence but gained a 0-3 advantage with a neatly taken drop-goal from fly-half Warcup on nine minutes.
It was now Ilkley’s turn to exert some pressure and an Alnwick offside gave Ilkley a kick at goal which fly-half Kimber missed as he did with a second penalty shortly after.
Alnwick’s deep drop-out was then brought back to the Alnwick 22 metre in a series of forward drives and Kimber made amends for his penalty misses by jinking past the cover to make it 5-3 and then converting for 7-3.
Alnwick then launched some threatening phases from scrums and line-outs, but the ball went dead from a Todd chip and chase.
Alnwick forwards comfortably held their own in a series of scrums on the half way until the ball once more found its way to Todd on the left and he put in a great jinking run to score near the posts for 7-8 with Warcup adding the conversion for 7-10.
An Ilkley drive from the restart took play to half-way but as Alnwick passes kept going astray, they ultimately had to settle for a line-out some 15 metre out from their goal-line.
Crucially, Alnwick’s line-out misfired for the first time in the game and with Kimber pulling the strings, winger Magee squeezed through wide out on the left to make it 12-10 the conversion being missed.
A good Alnwick attack from a scrum on half-way, finally resulted in an Alnwick line-out on Ilkley’s 22 metre from which Warcup slotted his second drop goal for a 12-13 lead at half-time with Alnwick going well.
What happened in the 11 minutes after the interval was a horror story where everything went haywire for Alnwick and where the game was won and lost.
Warcup put Ilkley’s restart safely into touch about 30 metre out but Alnwick were caught napping and from the line-out, fly-half Kimber dodged through to score under the posts after only a minute and a half for 17-13, adding the conversion, 19-13.
Alnwick had barely time to draw breath before two penalties to Ilkley gave them a five metre line-out where a catch and drive propelled Baxter over for a try, 24-13, five minutes into the half with the conversion missed.
Alnwick’s nightmare continued for the next few minutes in a shambles of their own making. Poor decisions and failure to tidy up a loose balls finally ended when they gained a scrum, only to knock on and from the scrum see Ilkley’s backs put Kimber over for his third try, which he then converted for 31-13.
At this point Alnwick woke up and for the next 25 minutes gave Ilkley a really torrid time.
The hosts forwards were shunted around and thoroughly mangled and Ilkley reduced to 14 courtesy of a yellow card.
Alnwick’s forwards and backs were giving Ilkley all sorts of problems whose defence barely held until Hamilton nearly broke through on the right and the ball came back left for Gothorp to stretch over and score by the posts for 31-18, Mallaburn adding the conversion 31-20.
Alnwick were soon back in Ilkley’s 22, laying siege to their line and opting for scrums as Ilkley conceded one penalty after another before prop Baxter got a yellow card.
Had this series of scrums been from five metre instead of 15-10 metre, a penalty try would surely have resulted, but pressure was relieved when skipper Boothman was somewhat bizarrely penalised at a set scrum.
Then came the best moment of the game when scrum-half Moralee tidied up a bouncing Ilkley clearance on his own 22 minutes and carved his way his way upfield leaving players and referee trailing in his wake.
Such a scintillating run deserved a try but an excellent covering tackle from winger Magee ended it at the line with the referee too distant to award anything but a five metre scrum.
There was still time for Gothorp to make a couple of thrusts for the line and Ilkley to clear for an Alnwick line-out which they won only to be penalised for crossing in midfield.
The kick was put into touch and the sound of the final whistle left Alnwick to reflect on what might have been.
Recent opponents have commented that Alnwick have provided their toughest games this season.
There are encouraging signs that things are beginning to gel and if Alnwick can harness the ample talents of a settled back line to their solidly established forward unit then future opponents should tread warily.
Team: R Mallaburn, H Todd, A Grey, F Hutchinson, A Shell, J Warcup, P Moralee, R Elliott, H Sordy, B Boothman (C), A Alexander, J Burgess, P Maughan, J Hamilton, B Gothorp. Subs used: P Brown, R Thompson, E Shell.
Referee: Simon Park (South Yorkshire).
Next match: Horden, home, Saturday, ko 3pm.
Ilkley - Tries: Kimber (three), Baxter, Magee. Conversions: Kimber (three).
Alnwick - Tries: Todd, Gothorp. Conversions: Mallaburn, Warcup. Drop goals: Warcup (two).