Kirkby Lonsdale 21 – 12 Ilkley

Dalesmen penned in at Kirkby

 A personal view by Cammie Hodgkinson

There were poignant moments of silence around the pitch before this game in tribute to Club President, Bryan (Brad) Bradshaw. A blue sky with winter sun lit up the colours of Barbon Fell as the backdrop but his smile would have overwhelmed even that, he will be massively missed and there wasn’t a dry eye in the Kirkby house.

To the game itself, a late injury to Agustin Cittadini saw Martyn Knapton switch to full back from wing with Matthew Barge starting on the outside and there were two ‘firsts’. It was Ilkley’s first visit to Underley Park and Kirkby’s first game at home as the proud new owners of the 30 acre Park, the first step into this exciting new era for the Club. It would be good to start with a win then but this would not be easily achieved against the visitors and their fast paced slick handling game.

Kirkby kicked off towards the Town down a stiff breeze and the early exchanges were pretty even. A penalty to Ilkley gave them a lineout in home territory but Kirkby stole their throw and took play up field, a turnover gave Ilkley a chance to run it back and only a last ditch tackle by Kirkby’s full back Knapton denied the visitors a try. A cracking start to the game.

The first quarter continued in ding dong fashion with Kirkby probably just having the edge and this materialised with the first try, Matt Hughes making a strong carry towards the line before offloading in the tackle to right wing Harry Ralston who scored in the corner. Tom Pickthall’s conversion attempt didn’t come off his boot at all well but Kirkby had the lead at 5 – 0.

Kirkby then yielded a couple of penalties which took Ilkley into the home twenty two, they drove from a successful lineout and were then awarded a scrum but Kirkby hooker Matt Holyland took it against the head and the danger was again cleared.

Back on the attack the Kirkby forwards were pounding the Ilkley line, prop Tyran Fagan prominent but it was his prop partner Dan Thompson who got the ball down for the second try, Pickthall’s conversion this time dead centre to extend the lead to 12 – 0 as half time approached. Kirkby were desperate to keep Ilkley off the scoreboard before the whistle went but the visitors were just as desperate to be on it and it was they who prevailed driving their big number four Henrik Ek over by the left corner flag. The conversion was wide as the whistle went to end a tightly contested first half at 12 – 5.

A narrow margin for Kirkby into the wind in the second half but maybe Brad intervened from his lofty position because did the wind quieten down a bit as the teams changed round? Kirkby caught the restart cleanly and full back Knapton hit the line at pace to break well into the Ilkley half, a tackle did come in but the ball was recycled and the momentum maintained taking play to the Ilkley line where Kirkby were penalised when they looked more likely to score.

The relief for Ilkley was brief and when a Kirkby attack was illegally halted Pickthall slotted the penalty to extend the lead to 15 – 5. There was a bad moment when Kirkby’s number eight Dave Maka was injured but he was able to hop off the pitch and hopefully be fit for next Saturday, Craig Galbraith dropping from six to his old position at eight where he put in a storming shift to the end of the game.

There was still very little in it between these two evenly matched sides. Ilkley’s running and ball handling skills were a feature and it was really no surprise when a flowing move created space down the right for their flying winger Josh Hall to cross and run behind the posts for a converted try to narrow the score to 15 – 12 and the result was right back in the melting pot.

Inside the last quarter a Pickthall penalty from around twenty five metres made it 18 – 12 although it was still anybody’s game as the clock ran down with Ilkley throwing everything at it and stretching the Kirkby defence with waves of attack. Kirkby were tackling, picking themselves up and tackling again and a decisive moment came from number seven Stuart Storey who wrapped up an Ilkley player preventing release and gaining a penalty in time added on.

Scott Armstrong put the ball into touch well inside the Ilkley half, Kirkby caught their throw put the ball up a jumper and drove, Ilkley were penalised centre field and around twenty five metres out and the game hung on this moment. Skipper Tom Pickthall took all the time he needed then coolly put the ball between the sticks and it was still in the air as the final whistle went to close out the score at 21 – 12 and the new era was under way with an historic win. The eight point margin denying the Dalesmen the losing bonus point they were well worth and that must have been a bitter pill to swallow.

There were evocative moments later on in the clubhouse. Former player, Nick Meadows, assumed the position standing on a chair to deliver a wonderful cameo performance making the thanks and presentations in the humorous “Brad” style and delivering the Man of the Match award to the ‘pocket rocket’ Stuart Storey.

 It’s Rossendale at home next Saturday and that will be a tough one, let’s hope everybody is fit.

Team

1   Tyran Fagan

2   Matt Holyland

3   Dan Thompson

4   Gareth Gore

5   Matt Hughes

6   Craig Galbraith

7   Stuart Storey

8   David Maka

9   Harry Huddleston

10 Dave Barton

11 Mathew Barge

12 Tom Pickthall

13 Scott Armstrong

14 Harry Ralston

15 Martyn Knapton

 

Bench

16 Elliot Horner

17 Alex Rogers

18 Ross Towers