Five tries from two sides trying to play enterprising rugby in this ‘curates egg’ of a game entertained a good Silver Royd turnout; however it was a couple of fourth quarter penalties from leading try scorer Tom Ratcliffe that clinched the game 25-17 for Scarborough.
Playing with a northerly wind that blew straight down the paddock, the Seasiders would have expected to spend most of the first half in Ilkley territory, not so; it was the visitors who dominated the early exchanges with their live-wire scrum-half Kirk Arundale running the show.
The Scarborough defensive line coped well with this early onslaught but when clean ball from an Ilkley scrum deep in home territory was moved right by Arundale, winger Pete Turner squeezed in at the corner for the opening try of the game in the 13th minute. Fly-half Sam Clewes missed his conversion attempt.
Trailing 5-0 Scarborough looked sluggish and were constantly muscled out of it at the breakdown consequently their free-scoring back division just couldn’t get into the game.
Fly-half Rob James and his halfback partner Jake Rollinson used what good possession they did get and James made some penetrative runs deep into Ilkley territory.
The young Aussie then tried an audacious long range drop goal which just shaved the upright in the 22nd minute. Good work by centre Marcus Edwards released Tom Ratcliffe who was stopped deep in the visitors 22 and the chance was lost.
Having weathered the early storm during which a committed Ilkley side had prevented them from taking advantage of the conditions, Scarborough turned the last 10 minutes of the half into their most productive period of the game; a sweeping threequarters move with wing Corey Dennis involved three times, took the Seasiders 50 metres up-field with Dennis getting on the end of it to power over wide on the right to level the scores in the 31st minute.
Six minutes later James and wing Paul White combined in a great move through the centre and flanker Luke Raines up in support, powered over and Ratcliffe converted for 12-5.
Scarborough continued to press and when a huge clearance out of defence by James bounced kindly for Dennis he released Rollinson who sprinted over in the 38th minute. Ratcliffe added the extras for 19-5.
The big centre had a chance to stretch the lead further on the stroke of half-time with a long distance penalty but his kick just shaved the upright.
With the wind behind them the visitors took the game to Scarborough from the re-start and a great move down the Ilkley left almost produced a try but a classic rugby tackle on wing Callum Gillon by Dennis saved the day.
However when Scarborough won the resulting lineout, Rollinson in attempting to pass the ball to his flyhalf for clearance inexplicably arrowed it over the dead ball line.
The west Yorkshiremen won an ensuing re-set scrum and the ball was moved inside for flyhalf Clewes to brush past some ‘after you Claude’ tackling to score. Clewes converted to reduce the Scarborough lead to seven points in the 43rd minute.
With Phil Watson on for Luke Raines Scarborough still had plenty of defending to do and when a darting run by Arundale took Ilkley deep into the home 22; the ball was moved blind for Gillon to score in the corner in the 50th minute.
Clewes’ conversion attempt was unsuccessful and his side trailed 17-19.
With their tails up the visitors laid siege to the Scarborough line and it looked only a matter of time before their pressure would tell.
But great goal line defence somehow stemmed the tide with all hands to the pump.
Matty Else, Chris Purdy, Nino Cutino and Charlie Hoggard were very much to the fore during this period but every Scarborough player played their part.
With Watson making some hard yards and sniping runs from James, Cutino, Dennis and Rollinson Scarborough took control in the final quarter and with a bit more composure could have run in several tries as the visitors appeared to run out of steam.
Ilkley were pinged for offside in the 64th and 68th minutes and Ratcliffe did the honours and stretched the lead to 25-17.
Ilkley looked to run from deep in the late stages of the game to at least salvage a couple of losing bonus points but yet again Dennis came to Scarborough’s rescue with a try-saving tackle on centre Jack Revell.
A mixed day for Scarborough really; the set-scrum worked against a big Ikley pack but the line-out was desperately poor for reasons I couldn’t pinpoint.
Ball retention and acquisition at the breakdown was poor in the first half but improved after the break.
The backs really looked the part at times but desperately need a playmaker to read the game and cool their white line fever.
Dennis, James and Rollinson excelled behind the scrum while up front Fish, Cutino, Hoggard, Purdy and particularly the ubiquitous Matty Else who was everywhere, took the plaudits.