Ilkeston suffered a further blow to any promotion hopes as hosts Bedford Athletic held out to win 8-7 in Midlands One East on Saturday.
Bedford’s ground staff had worked hard to clear snow from the pitch and get the game played, although Ilkeston lost skipper Adam Corcoran in the line-up to a calf strain allowing youngster Tom Hicks to make his first start for the club.
Conditions were cold, wet and muddy but Ilkeston started the better team and although early exchanges in the scrum were fairly even, it was the Elks pack who started to turn the screw in the second-half with total domination of the scrummages.
It was a different tale in the line-outs, however, as Bedford were winning a good supply of ball and got their try from a failed Ilkeston line-out that allowed them to attack from their 22m line. With a series of pick and drives a runner on the blindside went unspotted and went over to score an unconverted try in the corner on ten
Jake Lamb came close to scoring a try for the visitors but after fending off two would-be tacklers the ref adjudged the ball was dropped over the line despite him being some 20 metres away.
Shortly afterwards Bedford completed their scoring with an easy penalty in front of the sticks for not rolling away in the tackle, leaving the score 8-0 with 20 minutes gone which is how it would stay until the break.
Dan Taylor was replaced at half-time with Isaac Taylor and Ilkeston got straight into the Bedford pack again and good work from Dan Bell saw the start of the a series of scrums that eventually led to the Ilkeston score.
From a half way scrum, Greg Taylor was fed and burst through the defensive line, eventually dragged down on the Bedford five metre line where he was unable to offload to the supporting Jonathan Falls.
The resulting scrum was pushed over by the Elks but not grounded. This was corrected on the second attempt, however, by debutant Hicks at number eight and he scored the pushover try from a Bedford put-in. This handed an easy conversion to Falls under the sticks to bring the score 8-7 in Bedford’s favour.
Despite total domination in the scrum, the conditions eventually got the better of both sides with their attempts to play rugby.
Elks couldn’t put on their usual slick handling display and never really got past three or four phases with their decision-making at times also not helping.
Man-of-the-match went to Hicks for his good work at the base of the scrum resulting in his try, and his tireless work in defence and strong ball carrying, all boding well for the future.
This Saturday (7th) sees Ilkestonlooking to get back to winning ways at home against league strugglers Belgrave, with a 2.15pm kick-off.