Wilmslow 18 Ilkley 36

Fitness and finesse saw Ilkley power past rock-bottom Wilmslow on their first ever visit to the Cheshire outfit, recording a 36-18 win.

Ilkley welcomed Pat Atkinson into the fold for his seasonal debut and Luke Pearson back from the injury picked up at Blaydon.

The hosts began well on a gloomy, floodlit day and they earned three penalties close to the Ilkley line. Blake Morgan also picked up a yellow card for the visitors but they somehow they held out and cleared.

The home side came back and put more pressure on the Ilkley defence and made it 3-0 with a penalty following a dubious high tackle.

The balance of power then swung the way of the Dalesmen as they first won a couple of penalties, before Pat Power found a gap created by Elliot Morgan to score a try. Ilkley had a 7-3 lead after Charlie Ramsey added the extras.

Another penalty from the kick-off put Ilkley 35 metres out with a lineout. They won it and worked the ball slickly down the line to Atkinson, who delivered a pin-point pass to put Struan Connor in. He beat two defenders and scored to make it 12-3.

A concentration lapse put Wilmslow back into Ilkley’s 22. and they made it 12-6 with a penalty after a collapsed scrum.

Ilkley then had two great chances. A knock-on frustrated a certain score, before the excellent Pat Power was held up over the line.

Wilmslow took advantage. A penalty allowed them to earn a lineout five metres out and that produced a try out wide to make it 12-11.

Eddy Brown and Max McKay both went close as the Dalesmen went on the attack just before half-time, but the home side escaped and went in just one point behind at the break.

Ilkley's interval pep talk was delivered on the field but it fell on deaf ears as they made a sloppy start to the second half. Three penalties and three lineouts saw Wilmslow eventually crash over for a good forwards try to go 18-12 in front.

Blake Morgan’s version of Eddie Jones’ chaos theory of rugby continued to baffle the opposition and, sporadically, his team mates, but it did succeed in putting his side back on the front foot.

McKay drove hard into the Wilmslow 22 and two penalties later, the line was under siege.

A great break by Luke Pearson and a flat, low pass to J H Johnson put the winger in the corner to bring the score back to 18-17.

Three more penalties and several strong drives at the home line produced another penalty. The scrum was called and the ball found Johnson out wide with 15 metres to cover. He flew in for another (bonus point) try as his side gained a 22-18 lead.

Wilmslow had another look at the Ilkley line and they nearly put their centre through, but a thumping Joe Lowes tackle coughed up a penalty to relieve the pressure.

Johnson’s great kick put Ilkley on the front foot and some excellent rugby moved the ball right, then left for the rampant McKay to cross the line for a well-deserved try to make it 29-18.

Despite a couple more penalties for Wilmslow, they simply could not break the solid Dalesmen defence.

Ilkley won a turnover on halfway and out of the melee popped skipper Elliot Morgan to gallop out of two or three despairing tackles to go over for a deserved try. Ramsey added the conversion to ensure the final score was 36-18.

A nervous start was offset by a confident finish and it ensured that Ilkley bagged a valuable five point victory to put them on 31 points in 10th place. It leaves them with a cushion of 12 points to Lymm in 11th and 18 to Kendal in the top relegation spot.

Crucially, the Dalesmen are only seven points adrift of this week’s opposition at Stacks Field, fifth-placed Harrogate. It is a huge game and a big crowd should certainly enjoy their afternoon out.