Hull travelled to Ilkley to face a side which had made a good start to their season and whom the previous week had posted a very emphatic 39-17 away win at Wirral. The Dalesmen were expected to give us a tough challenge while we were determined to maintain our seven match winning run. Hull faced a very strong wind in the first half which was blowing straight off the moor and after a hard first half we were glad to turn round with a 5-3 lead. After Hull had Tom O’Donnell yellow-carded in the first minute of the second period the home side took full advantage to score a very good try to regain the lead by 8-5. This was as good as it got for Ilkley as Hull, now with the wind behind them, went on to score two more tries and despite Liam Regardsoe also being yellow-carded for high tackle we ran out comfortable winners by 23-8. Ilkley gave us a very tough afternoon and played their full part in a very good game. Steve Hihetah took the honours with three tries and after Steve Johnson went off injured Simon Humberstone took over the kicking duties and landed two penalties and a conversion.
The Ilkley match report applauded our side for our combative and competent display during the game but was very critical of our ‘abrasive approach and questionable swinging arm tackling technique, which has won us a lot of matches but very few friends’. As the club recorder I can only say that we had only picked up two yellow cards in eight games prior to this fixture and both were for technical offences.
Elsewhere in the division Alnwick quickly got over their defeat at the Ferens Ground the previous week by posting a good 24-3 home win over a Lymm side that so far has failed to reproduce last season’s form. Fourth placed Blaydon had their work cut out before beating visitors Wirral by 29-24 and Kendal found visitors Billingham too hot to handle as the second placed side won by 24-3. Kirkby Lonsdale are playing very well now and posted their sixth win of the season with a very good 19-18 home win over Sandal who had also shown some good form recently. Bottom of the table Vale of Lune, who have yet to win a game, gave their visitors Harrogate the shock of their lives before ‘Gate won a frantic game by 45-38 and finally second from bottom Wilmslow went down 55-26 at home to Rossendale, another side who are having an up and down season so far.
After the dust had settled Hull are still top but now only by courtesy of a very healthy scoring difference over Billingham whose try-bonus point brought them level with both sides now on 39 points. Harrogate have moved back into third place on 32 ahead of Blaydon on 29 points. Down at the bottom we have Vale of Lune on 7 points, Wilmslow on 8 and Kendal on 9. These three clubs are looking very isolated now after only nine games.
This coming Saturday brings up some very interesting games with two or three bankers (?) and one or two which could go either way. Billingham entertain Kirkby Lonsdale and I cannot see anything else than a home win despite KLon’s win over Sandal the previous week and I would imagine the same applies to the Blaydon v Ilkley game. Harrogate v Alnwick could be a tight match where I think home advantage will prevail and Lymm will not be looking forward to the visit of Hull, who have a good record at Crouchley Lane. Rossendale have a second consecutive game against bottom three opposition and will probably fill their boots as they did against Wilmslow. Finally, home advantage should be more than enough for Wirral when they entertain Wilmslow.