Northallerton 7

Ilkley 27

ILKLEY were finally able to play their much-delayed first round Yorkshire Shield away match on Saturday and came away winners of a scrappy, largely uninspiring match against an enthusiastic but limited Northallerton side.

Fielding a strong set of backs, Ilkley always looked dangerous, ball in hand and playing with the considerable slope in the first-half, looked much the better side for most of the game.

After just three minutes, a clean take in the line by BJ Fowler led to Simon Smith battering his way through the first line of defence to earn a penalty and a three point lead.

Sweeping downhill, scrum half Coughlin tried a clever kick back to the blindside hoping to find speed-merchant Dan Nulty, but the touchline foiled this Ilkley attack.

Well on top now, Ilkley only failed to add to their lead by unenforced errors and a poor clearance kick from Dan Nulty allowed Northallerton a rare visit to the Ilkley half, but all came to nought as Tim Barley thumped a clearance kick 60 yards downfield.

From the cleanly-won line a superb controlled rolling maul set up Simon Smith once more to a trademark try, neatly converted by the same player taking his haul to all ten of Ilkley's points.

Immediately from the drop-out, an Alan Moffat catch and drive set up a great move, the ball passing through several pairs of hands before Sean Gilbert, coming in from the blindside wing, put Dan Nulty in for one of his own trademark tries, again converted by Simon Smith.

Nulty is so fast that it has been amusing to hear the comments made in various Yorkshire touchlines about his prodigious speed - so long as he gets the ball of course.

The rest of the half was a scrappy affair, Northallerton's sporadic efforts being ably dealt with by a strong Ilkley defence, with Alan Moffat prominent and the visitors being penalised too often for the score to be added to. At half-time it was 17-0 to Ilkley.

With Ilkley now having to play up the slope, the first ten minutes of the second-half saw a flurry of activity in their 22, with Northallerton savvy about how to use their pitch's peculiarities to their advantage.

The home side's front five, who in fact held the Ilkley pack quite comfortably all afternoon in the scrum, eventually created enough space for their No 8, Ben Allerton, to stroll in from ten yards for a deserved try, converted to make the score 17-7 to Ilkley with half an hour to play.

With televised rugby proving a popular diversion, the spectators were subjected to a fairly abject display for the rest of the match from both sides. John Hinchliffe came on for Sean Gilbert and Ross Knight for Matt Newberry.

After five minutes pressure in their own half, Ilkley finally managed to break out into the home 22.

Full back Phil Moffat linked with Stuart Vincent and Dan Nulty to send John Hinchliffe in under the posts for a superb score, duly added to by Simon Smith.

With Martin Hemingway on for Mike Leeson, the last score of the match was another Smith penalty under the posts, the final score being 27-7 and the prospect of facing an improving West Leeds side at Stack's field on Easter Saturday in the next round.

As this was very much the sort of match the Dalesmen could have lost, the travelling Ilkley faithful were satisfied that justice had been done.

York and Sheffield Tigers remain in the competition too, but if Ilkley can raise their game to the sort of level seen when playing Beverley and Keighley in the League, there is no reason why the Shield cannot return after an 11 year break.

In the meantime, Ilkley need one more league point from the six on offer to be absolutely sure of safety and Pontefract are sure to prove a tough challenge on April 2.

A good run in the Shield and a mid-table finish would be a good and fair reward for this Ilkley side's first season in Yorkshire One.