Kirkby took their magnificent 28 games unbeaten record to Ilkley’s wonderfully appointed clubhouse and pristine pitch at their Stacks Field ground, but they travelled without four regular first team choices at hooker, second row, and both wingers who were absent through injury, winger Harry Ralston having pulled up in training on Thursday night with a ‘hammy’.
On the plus side there were debut first team appearances for David Maka in the back row and Andre Potgieter on the left wing, that’s not where he would have been expecting to start, his business is more in the ‘thick’, but needs must.
Ilkley kicked off playing left to right in front of the clubhouse and managed to get hands on the ball which they kept hold of for the first four minutes eventually working their number eight John Henry Johnson over by the posts, the conversion putting them 7 – 0 up.
The Ilkley backs were well drilled and sharp but aided in their cause by some unusually slack first up tackling by Kirkby. This gave them space to run which they exploited down the left touchline where a chip over and re-gather from their flying full back Ben Magee sent him in under the posts for 14 – 0 after quarter of an hour during which Kirkby had hardly touched the ball.
With twenty two minutes on the clock the legitimate Ilkley left wing Tom Milner escaped tackles to run into space down his touchline and around to the posts where the easy conversion took them to 21 – 0 and this was their third converted try as the first quarter came to an end. But they didn’t score again for the rest of the match as the reformed Kirkby began to find some understanding and cohesion and got into the game.
lineouts were pretty secure for both sides but the Kirkby pack definitely had the edge in the set scrum and from a scrum around ten metres from the home line Kirkby number eight Alex Rogers picked up and burst through but was held just short. Kirkby were able to put the ball through several phases during this attack but were eventually tackled into touch and Ilkley cleared from the lineout.
Another scrum success, this time from a home put in, saw the Ilkley front row come up as Kirkby drove and stand-off Dave Barton put the penalty into touch inside the home twenty two. The lineout put Kirkby on the attack again as the clock ran towards half time although credit to the home side who defended several phases without conceding and 21 – 0 was still the score as the half time whistle went.
Kirkby started the second half in much better style and pinned Ilkley in their twenty two, a period of pressure which saw the home number four, Martyn Mitchell, pick up a yellow card after five minutes. Kirkby worked to exploit the extra man and did get over the line only to be deemed held up and, whilst they maintained the pressure on Ilkley from the scrum, the home side defended robustly to keep them out.
As the first half had been mostly Ilkley the second half was mostly Kirkby, occasional foray’s into the Kirkby half by Ilkley had the home spectators calling for the bonus point fourth try but it was a more even contest now and they were unable to deliver it.
Try scoring opportunities came and went for Kirkby but handling errors butchered a number of chances. Had one of them been taken who knows but Kirkby had to wait until inside the last ten minutes before they scored through Barton, full back Ryan Terry knocking over the conversion to make the final score 21 – 7.
Ilkley won the game in the first fifteen minutes with some good attacking play in the space they found as the new Kirkby formation settled down and in doing so ended Kirkby’s winning run, so well played Ilkley. All good things come to an end and Kirkby, whilst suffering some frustrations in this match, have positives on which to focus as they move on to another testing away fixture at Rossendale next Saturday.