Old Brodleians 7 Ilkley 7
Brods are without a Yorkshire One win in two months so this was a step forward on a run of tough fixtures.
Fourth-placed Ilkley came to Woodhead with a record of 11 wins from 17 league games and they were matched by the home side, whose lack of a cutting edge meant their marked territorial advantage in the second half went largely unrewarded.
Chances were at a premium. Ilkley scored a converted try seven minutes before the break and Brods did the same eight minutes after it. Each side had one penalty chance, visiting marksman Mike Cochia hitting the left hand upright and Danny Wood dragging a kick of similar difficulty wide.
In a complete turnabout from half a dozen years since, Brods are now a match for the best teams in the section up front but struggling for any penetration in a much-changed and injury-hit backline.
There were some shoots of recovery in that area with teenagers Phil Town and Kristian Sharples both heavily involved on Saturday and showing plenty of promise.
Lock or back rower Kyle Millward was an unexpected absentee from the home side with a rib injury and his influence was particularly missed in the lineout, where Ilkley proved particularly adept.
No 8 Rob Jennings made early ground against the slope for Brods but Ilkley produced some nice support play in the backs to mount the first threat to the try line after seven minutes.
Brods held firm with some determined tackling and Sharples eventually hacked the ball clear to half-way.
However, the visitors made an easy 60 yards down their right hand side to return to the attack.
A double hit from Jennings and Gareth Standeven stopped an Ilkley player in his tracks and typified the home side’s determination.
The home pack, with props Callum Thompson and Alex Dawson to the fore, was retaining possession well and driving hard but Ilkley made the breakthrough when Standeven was caught isolated in possession after half an hour.
Cochia’s penalty came back off the post but it might have been better for Brods had it gone over.
The ball rebounded to No 8 Jennings, whose attempted clearance failed to find touch, and Ilkley returned the ball with interest, a missed tackle resulting in centre Craig Barker scoring to the right of the posts.
Cochia converted and Brods suffered another blow on the restart when flanker Andy Finn was yellow carded by teenage referee James Campbell from Liverpool for a late tackle. The home side saw it through to half time, surviving one scare down the right from the dangerous Ilkley backs, whose influence waned as the game went on.
Finn’s return was followed by a Wood penalty to touch 15 metres out and Brods made the most of the position, Thompson battering his way over in a pile of bodies and Wood levelling the scores with the goal.
The majority of the play in the second half took place between the Ilkley 22 and the half way line but it was very much a stalemate with the Brods forwards unable to apply enough pressure to force penalties and the backs lacking the craft and penetration to break the Ilkley line.
The visitors, for their part, were happy to kick the ball clear and then defend.
Wood’s penalty miss came on 53 minutes but Ilkley survived fairly comfortably for the rest of the contest, only a weaving Sharples run and a Finn hack forward which just ran dead providing their only moments of anxiety.
Brods’ two-point haul leaves them six points clear of the drop zone but next Saturday’s hosts Knottingley won for the second week running.