A heavily sanded surface and a fairly strong wind at Niagara road provided difficult conditions and an error-strewn game resulted. The wind, however, was cross-field and did not turn the match into a two-half affair, but some 23 scrums and 20 lineouts meant that play on both sides was disjointed. A dry ball did not seem to help and on several occasions when passing was the right option; players went to ground and turned over possession. Moments of brilliance were not always matched by collective support and structure and game- plan were not the order of the day, but both teams showed determined defence which prevented try-scoring opportunities turning into points.
14 penalties were awarded in the first half, 5 to oaks & 9 to Ensians and a couple of kickable ones were missed on both sides. Sheffield had kicked an early three points and full back Kristian Keinhorst converted one for the visitors after a strong break by Luke Cowdell in the centre.
After 15 minutes Sheffield crossed for a try following sustained pressure, but the conversion was missed when the wind blew the ball off the kicking tee. Fly half luke freer left the field injured at this stage and was replaced by Ben Hatton, who took the full back spot with Keinhorst moving to stand off.
Wing Declan Jackson had a storming run, beating several men, and on being tackled, Sheffield were penalised and Hatton turned it into 3 points. In the second quarter, oaks were taking some holding and play was intense from end to end. Line outs and scrums had been going "with the put-in" but Ensians began to dominate the latter with two strikes against the head and a strong push-back of the home side's scrum. A yellow card for the home team and a mix-up with lineout numbers for the visitors saw an exchange of penalties and the half finished 11-9 in favour of Sheffield. No.8 Rob Arbuckle was becoming a real threat with strong breaks from the base of the scrum and the second half was all to play for.
Ensians subbed second row Ali Campbell and winger Joe Hatton at half time with oliver cooper and Josh Howarth coming off the bench. A kick- chase by the visitors led to sustained pressure and Rob Arbuckle found and exploited a gap to go over half way out. Ben hatton kicked the conversion. Another strike against the head for the Ensians was kicked away and tremendous tackling by both sides forced errors. However, Arbuckle went over for his second try after prominent work in attack and defence. Hatton converted.
With 18 minutes to go flanker Lee O'Donnell was yellow-carded and Sheffield kicked three points to take the score to 23/14. Following some good hands by the visitors, a forward pass spoilt the attack, but from the scrum another strike against the head allowed Arbuckle to pick up and make ground on the blind side. The cover was drawn, the pass was perfect and scrum half Rob Lofthouse went over to round off his game of efficient service and defensive covering. Hatton kicked his third conversion.
The final minutes involved some good running by oaks and after some end-to-end play they scored wide out to give their efforts respectability. Prop Dom Hignett's storming runs should have had more reward and overall, the league leaders could have had more points on the board.
A win for old Otliensians by 30 to 19 in a game played in excellent spirit, well refereed and with a great atmosphere on the touchline meant that their unbeaten run continues.
Ensians know that beating Ilkley at any level is never easy and this was no exception.
With just the fifteen players available, it was about making the most of the players that had turned out. One player only came after being talked into a game while visiting his uncle.
The majority of the team were made up of forwards. A second row and back row were moulded into centres in the shape of Toby Baltrop and James Wilkinson. Centre Dom Oddy was moved to full back to put a bit of brains in an important position. Veteran number seven Rich Crossley was moved to nine. The second row was made up of props Ben Newall and new start Josh Dyson. The back row was made up of Ken, Cheesey and American footballer Adam Baird. Ilkley looked impressive warming up; Ensians knew they were going to have to battle hard against a well drilled side.
The game started at a good pace with Ilkley moving the ball well, aggressive tackling by Ensians back row and centres showed Ilkley they were in for a game.
Whenever Ensians had the ball Jonny Rah at ten would try to use James (the beast at inside centre) to punch holes and off-load. This proved effective with the pack coming round to link up; Adam, Ken, Toby and Cheesy bulldozing forward. When stopped Rich Crossley fed Ben Newall, Pete Bonner, Josh Dyson and Craig Mawson to drive round the sides.
Ilkley had other ideas, building phases they worked their way down field. Ensians were penalised and the Ilkley stand-off kicked the penalty. Ilkley now had some momentum and scored a try wide out shortly after the penalty although the conversion was missed.
From the kick-off Ensians tore into Ilkley winning a turnover. Forwards and backs drove the ball forward "Forever young" prop Pete Bonner finished the move driving over to score. Hooker and new goal kicker Toby Libra was still finding his range and the conversion was missed.
From the kick-off Ensians came straight back, the forwards driving hard and Jonny Rah using all his tricks to find gaps. Direct running from the centres James and Toby Baltrop aided by Dom Oddy coming into the line from full back were causing the Ilkley defence problems. New boy Connor and Mark Elam on the wings were also trying to find holes in the Ilkley defence.
After another impressive drive by Toby Libra and Pete Bonner, Rich Crossley ;the wily fox at nine; skipped round the edge of the Ilkley forwards to score under the posts for an easy conversion.
Ilkley came back and on half time a nice move by their inside centre made room for an inside pass to his stand-off who went under the posts. With his conversion half time was Ilkley 15 Ensians 12.
Veterans Rich Crossley and Pete Bonner roused the lads for the second half, it was game on. Ilkley, who had various injuries, rang the changes and brought on some fresh and solid players, this promised a cracking second half.
Ilkley were moving the ball well and inter passing which caused Ensians problems. Fantastic tackling displays from Rich Crossley, Ken, Cheesy stemmed the flow. The Ensian forwards regrouped and drove the ball back up the field with Adam Baird, Josh Dyson and Toby Libra making hard yards. Jonny used his magic and Dom Oddy steamed up the field with Cheesy in support. When it looked like he had run out of room, Cheesy put in a kick Stuart Lancaster would have been proud of, and from the resulting scrum the Beast smashed his way over the line. With a successful conversion it was 19 points to 15 for the Ensians.
The game went on in much the same vein with Ilkley looking dangerous on the break and Ensians looking good driving forward. Adam Baird had some success when used as a battering ram at pace.
The game could have gone either way until James Wilkinson used his size and strength to drive over and score. The conversion was missed. Ensians finished the game as 24 points to 15 winners.
A good game played in good spirit with the referee and linesmen allowing the game to flow.
Some great performances by lads playing out of their usual positions and out of their comfort zone, they just got on with it.