Late penalty earns tough draw

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Travelling to Ilkley on the back of four straight wins, but without their talismanic captain Phil Watson, Scarborough managed a hard fought draw after a last minute penalty from big winger Tom Ratcliffe.

Watson, side-lined with a broken arm, watched on as the away team kicked off in overcast conditions and showed some excellent early pressure.

It was Ilkley though who had the first opportunity for points, a penalty for not rolling away from the ruck in front of the posts looked simple but fly-half Craig Barker couldn’t convert.

Scarborough cleared and moved down the pitch into Ilkley territory and had what would turn out to be their best spell of the game.

With good hands from the backs a new slim-line Tom Ratcliffe was finding space on the left-wing making a couple of breaks which took the Ilkley defence by surprise, however both attacks were quickly snuffed out by a solid defensive outfit.

After sustained pressure, and powerful scrummaging from the Scarborough eight, with a front three of Paul Taylor, Nino Cutino and Mark Hopper, they finally got some points on the board.

Following a dominant scrum, centre Jan Tieber, who showcased his powerful running all afternoon, made a break into the home 22. He was brought down eventually, but Ilkley killed the ball to prevent further Scarborough pressure and the resulting penalty was comfortably converted by Ratcliffe.

The pick of the Ilkley team in the early stages was scrum half Tom Collard who kept his charges on the front foot in attack, running the big Ilkley forwards into what turned out to be a solid Scarborough outfit. He, however, was inexplicably substituted just after a second penalty for Scarborough was converted by Ratcliffe in the 23rd minute. Again Ilkley were penalised for not rolling away and the burly winger dutifully kicked Scarborough 6-0 ahead.

Almost immediately after the restart, Scarborough finally had the ball down behind the Ilkley line. A grubber kick from Ilkley was blocked by a Scarborough foot and lightening centre Benji Cottle picked up the ball. In the moment of the game, he went on one of his now customary breaks, brushing aside four Ilkley tacklers before offloading for Graeme Jeffrey to score wide on the left. Ratcliffe missed the conversion but took his opportunity with another penalty on 30 minutes, and Scarborough were looking comfortable at 14-0.

That proved to be the best spell we would see from a Scarborough team who faded towards the end of the half. Despite aggressive defence from the forwards including Cutino, Readman, Nightingale and especially Charlie Hoggard,

Ilkley managed to get a penalty through back-row Chris Purdy lazily lying on the wrong side of the ruck. Fly-half Barker kicked the penalty to take the score to 14-3.

As it turned out a poor pass from scrum-half Zbynek Schutz, who was otherwise outstanding, cost Scarborough a try. The ball hit the deck in the visitor’s 22 and with both Tom Harrison and Jan Tieber seemingly arguing over who would dive on the ball, Ilkley centre Steve Nolson hacked the ball on and dived over to score a try. The conversion was missed but amazingly the enthusiastic touch judge from Ilkley adjudged it to have gone between the posts and Scarborough’s lead was cut to 14-10.

In a moment of controversy towards the end of the half, Nino ‘the lion’ Cutino seemed to be struck on the floor by the elbow of Ilkley hooker Steve Graham, leaving the prop needing stiches.

Young referee Charlie Gayther did not see the incident and infact sin-binned Cutino shortly afterwards when a maul was brought down near the Scarborough line.

The visitors eventually managed to clear though, and the half time score stayed 14-10.

Ilkley had turned down opportunities to kick easy three point penalties towards the end of the first half and continued to go for the corner when Scarborough repeatedly infringed near their own line early in the second.

The second half passed with little event, Ilkley dominating territory and possession but Scarborough answered every question asked of them defensively.

Kiwi Blake Nightingale was a thorn in the Ilkely side, regularly winning penalties and turning over possession, but it was back-row Charlie Hoggard who put in a series of terrific hits to help keep Ilkley at bay.

After a drop goal effort from mercurial fly-half Tom Harrison, Ilkley spent another sustained period attacking the Scarborough line. Finally the pressure told and slick handling after a lineout in the Scarborough 22 allowed centre Nolson to score again, this time under the posts. There was no argument about the conversion this time and for the first time in the game, Ilkley led at 17-14.

That is how is stayed until the dying minutes. A strong travelling Scarborough support held their breath as Ratcliffe missed a long range kick at goal close to the death, only for Scarborough to then be awarded another penalty closer to the Ilkley posts.

Ratcliffe did not make the same mistake twice and gave Scarborough the three points they needed to earn a 17-17 draw and extend their unbeaten run to five games.

In the end a draw seemed a fair result, with Scarborough winning the first half and Ilkley dominating the second.

Outstanding defence from both sides and parity in the set-pieces with a quality Scarborough scrum taking on an efficient Ilkley line out meant that honours were even in the end.