ILKLEY played with "pride and guts" but went down to a 21-11 defeat against a very good Hull side on Saturday.

Ilkley arrived at the Ferens Ground without Ollie Holtham, JH Johnson and Peter Erskine, the latter two on their last mandatory Saturday off following concussion.

Dan Lawrence was drafted in to replace Holtham at prop and Max Mackay made a welcome return at Number 8.

Hull had not lost a match since the first of the season, when they trailed Rossendale by a single point, and since then had racked up some very impressive victories.

The pre-match warm-ups provided some indication of the reason for these successes, as the home pack looking menacingly massive.

The step up to semi-professional National Two requires a different mind-set, a different approach to the game and a big increase in physicality.

This Hull side is clearly ready for the challenges ahead, but Ilkley were in no mood for rolling over and granting their hosts an easy passage.

Indeed, despite some lightning attacks, Hull found themselves 6-0 down after a quarter of an hour, as the Ilkley defence nullified whatever was thrown at them.

Whilst they had looked distinctly wobbly at the first scrum, possession had been retained and a Charles Ramsey kick took his side to 30 metres out.

Hull knocked on and were then penalised at the scrum, Ramsey kicking his first.

Hull won possession from the kick-off and when the Ilkley backs wandered offside, Hull kicked for touch.

The rolling maul was very well-defended, but Ramsey’s clearance kick was well fielded on the full by Hull’s Michael Adlard and Ilkley had it all to do again.

It was Ilkley’s turn to counter and Struan Connor nearly got in for a try in the right corner.

The pressure was maintained and when Hull’s backs encroached, Ramsey was given the opportunity to notch his second penalty, making it 6-0.

Ilkley failed to control the kick-off and when a penalty was conceded, Hull opted for touch again, but another turnover allowed Ilkley to clear their lines, albeit to only 15 metres out.

This time Hull’s control was better and prop Ben Boothman crashed over, Simon Humberstone adding the extras to make it 7-6.

Whilst Ilkley didn't lose any of their own put-ins at the scrum, when it was Hull’s turn, it was a very different story as referee David Charlton ruthlessly punished Ilkley’s wheeling as the Ilkley pack felt the pressure.

This didn’t stop some great passages of play by the visitors though, as Harry Wales led the charge out of defence and every one of his team-mates was giving his all. Hull’s defence held though and back they came.

A well-taken catch from a clearance kick by full back Lee Birch set up a ruck and a couple of five metre scrums, both of which Ilkley were penalised. Eventually Mr Charlton ran out of patience and awarded a penalty try.

Still the Dalesmen refused to yield, keeping Hull pinned in their own half, but when a kick through was fielded by Birch, Hull ran in the try of the day, almost from their own lines. The conversion was good and Ilkley found themselves 21-6 down as the half-time whistle blew.

In the second half, Hull did their best to raise the tempo and rattle Ilkley. On the other hand, they started to make mistakes and with tempers fraying, flanker Thomas O’Donnell was carded for foul play.

The extra man helped Ilkley’s cause immediately and for the next 20 minutes they looked marginally the better side. Matt Burke’s entry to the fray didn’t go unnoticed, but as much as they battered the Hull line, Ilkley just couldn’t find a way through.

Skipper Elliot Morgan and brother Blake had a few darts, ably supported by Luke Pearson and Ben Waddington, who had moved out to centre to accommodate Burke. Eventually, Ilkley did get a thoroughly deserved try, courtesy of Blake Morgan after good work by Mackay. The conversion was missed and the score stood at 21-11.

The whiff of a losing bonus point proved to be illusory as Hull worked a superb training-ground move 10 metres inside the Ilkley half and try-machine Steve Hihetah glided in under the posts for his side’s bonus point.

This was cruel for Ilkley, but they came back, finishing the game on a high and on the attack.

No Ilkley supporter could have wished for more from their team, who played with pride and guts against a very, very good Hull side who have fully-deserved their promotion.

There will be another tough game this Saturday at Stacks Field when Ilkley take on third-placed Blaydon, who will no doubt be anxious to keep in touching distance of the play-off berth.