A bright spring evening welcomed our close neighbours Ilkley to the Avenue for the quarter final of this year’s Aire-Wharfe Cup. This was the first match of the campaign for Wharfedale having been given a bye in the first round, but it was straight into knock-out rugby with no plate competition to fall back into for the losers. The last time these two teams locked horns was when Ilkley narrowly won at their ground in the semi-finals a few years ago in an epic encounter, which caused Mark Simpson to emigrate rather than risk another shoddy grubber kick.
The opening exchanges were a little loose and erratic with mistakes from both sides, but it was Wharfedale who scored first. The ball was passed out to the left where centre Scott Rogers broke through, was part tackled, commando rolled and then flopped over to score. JD was off target with the extras, 5-0.
Ilkley soon had the chance to respond when a penalty was given away in kicking range. It was off target but the pressure remained and the defence eventually yielded with a close range move from a scrum. Conversion kicked and Ilkley had the lead, 5-7.
Wharfedale came back on the attack and were soon back in Ilkley’s 22. Will Bell then fooled the visiting defence (and a few of his own team mates) as he broke through the back of the ruck in a Solomi–esque manner to run in and score. JD added the extras, lead restored 12-7. Bell was then hero to villain as he was penalised for not rolling away and Ilkley reduced the deficit to 12-10.
As the error strewn half drew to a close, Ilkley were on the attack just inside their own half but a turnover was forced and the ball was flung wide to the right to Tom Oakes on the wing, who then showed just enough pace to evade a lumbering second row to score in the corner. JD nailed an excellent touchline conversion, 19-10 to the home side.
The second half started in a similar manner to the first half with mistakes and penalties. First Ilkley missed a 3 point opportunity and then JD did the same before Wharfedale started to grasp control of the game and look to extend their lead. A sustained period of pressure in Ilkley’s 22 was nearly thrown away by a horrific cross field (well more back down field) kick by scrum half James Raper, but the ball was regathered and the play continued. A suspected knock on by Jim ‘soft hands’ Bowers was missed by the official and the ball offloaded to Jack Wells who crashed over to score. JD wayward again, 24-10.
A surprising turn of pace by JD following a loose ball kicked through deep into the Ilkley 22 put more pressure on the visitors. Ilkley managed to retain possession and kicked to clear but the ball was fielded by ‘Old Man’ Russ Aldersley, who despite nearing 50, properly old-manned the three chasing Ilkley players. Back onto the attack in their 22 and No.8 Chris Swainson was put clean through to score. JD on target, 31-10.
Ilkley were not finished and camped up in the Wharfedale 22 for a good period of play and eventually, despite some fantastic defensive effort from the hosts crashed over for a try, conversion on target, 31-17.
That was it for the visitors and the home side went on to register another two tries. Firstly a driven maul which I think Jack Kitching scored then Will Bell rounded off proceedings with a try wide out on the right by the score board. JD missed both conversions, but final score a pleasing 41-17.
Team: – 1. J Wells, 2. A Stubbs, 3. J Jackson, 4. J Bowers, 5. D Benson, 6. J Kitching, 7. O Bullock, 8. C Swainson, 9. J Raper, 10. J Davies, 11. T Oakes, 12. W Bell, 13. S Rogers, 14. S Arkwright, 15. S Mason.
Substitutes: – 16. P Marklew, 17. T Carlisle, 18. C Lawn, 19. L Craven, 20. R Aldersley.
Tries: – Bell (2), Rogers, Wells, Swainson, Oakes, Kitching.
Conversions: – Davies (3)