Ilkley 31-12 Vale

Vale's Sam Wallbank.
Vale's Sam Wallbank.
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THE Vale of Lune have not traversed the moors to take on Ilkley for a number of decades, but as history has proved on numerous occasions, and we are not just talking rugby, any venture into White Rose territory can be fraught with hidden dangers just lurking below the surface, a trap to the unwary and the ill prepared.

So the Vale’s first excursion into Yorkshire since April 2005, when they lost heavily at Hull, ended in defeat.

Vale rang the changes from the previous week and introduced a number of their younger players into a squad that at the end of the day was a little light on experience against a fired up Ilkley side that ruled the roost for most of the second half to deny the Vale any score after the visitors had led 12-7 at half-time.

For the Vale, newcomers full-back Jordan Dorrington, winger Sam Morby, Jimmy Birchall and prop Josh O’Donnell all made favourable impressions and did their cause little harm, in a fixture that ratcheted up in intensity after the initial opening sparring was over.

Normally pre-season warm-up games are lacking in a bit of devil but this was not the case at Stacks Field, with its well appointed shiny new clubhouse and excellent playing facilities.

The referee was forced to issue yellow cards and give stern warnings to players from both sides as the on-field temperatures began to rise.

Heavy rain sluiced down on the journey to Ilkley, hollows quickly filled to axle deep levels, with even the flat levels along the Lune Valley awash with the traffic causing rippling bow waves.

Before kick-off time the rain started to ease but low loud clung stubbornly to the surrounding hillsides, forcing numerous householders to switch their lights on.

A nearby cricket club had abandoned play earlier in the day, the covers were on, and mini lakes dotted the outfield, much to the delight of the splashing seagulls.

Ilkley, who were defeated finalists in the RFU Intermediate Cup last season and play in Yorkshire One, opened strongly and after eight minutes of serious pressure went ahead in the eighth minute with a converted try.

Morby almost latched on to the ball as he chased down a kick and Dorrington danced through with a confident well balanced run as the Vale came more and more into the game.

In the 28th minute, Tom Carter, who will be shortly leaving the Vale to take up a teaching post in London, hoofed a penalty kick crossfield into the waiting hands of Damon Hall who stood all alone on the left flank, not exactly one of the ‘Ladies in Waiting’ as billed on an advertising hoarding, more a ‘A Lurking Winger’ ready to pouch the ball and score an unconverted try wide out.

Vale were not afraid to give the ball air because it was apparent that the home side would prefer to build a forward base before bringing their dangerous backs into the action.

The Vale successfully ensued they did not find themselves involved in too much prolonged close quarter work and in the final move of the game they went ahead.

James Hodder, who was last season’s leading try scorer, and playing at scrum half, set off on a solo twisting run from his own half to touch down between the posts for his try, converted by Carter. By the sixth minute of the second half the Vale had conceded the lead and shipped 12 points.

A quickly taken tap penalty resulted in a try which was converted after two minutes and was followed by an unconverted try as the Vale ran out of numbers in defence being a player short with Alex Baines in the sin-bin.

Suddenly the gloves were off, the game became a no holds barred colourful workout, and went on to underline there could be no such thing as a Roses friendly; it certainly made for compulsive viewing and listening, as the touch line exchanges underlined.

Vale became trapped in their own half for long periods, they did break out and threaten the Ilkley line but lacked the cutting edge to seriously embarrass the home side.

During the second half Ilkley’s pack grew in confidence and in the closing 10 minutes any hopes of a Vale revival were dashed when they fell further into debt.

Two converted tries were posted by Ilkley and they were good value for their victory ahead of their opening league game of the season at Huddersfield YMCA.

As for the Vale, who kick-off their North One West campaign with a home fixture against Altrincham Kersal on Saturday, one expects some of the experienced regulars to return but there are still a number of positions up for grabs, with yet another clutch of exciting younger players throwing their hats into the ring.

Certainly the hard nosed Vale pundits struggled to name the starting line up for Saturday, but if all selections were automatic then the reason for warm-up games becomes a rather academic exercise for all concerned.

Thankfully the game at Ilkley was no stroll on the park for both sides, and came as a timely reminder that a competitive league season is waiting in the wings.

Vale of Lune: J Dorrington, D Hall, J Higgin, A McCluskie, S Morby, T Carter, J Hodder, A Cowey, O Cowey, J O’Donnell, S Wallbank, H Fellows, A Garnett (capt), D Lin, G Tudor, M Hanson, J Hesketh, A Baines, J Birchall.