Play-off race goes down to the wire once more

Ilkeston player Steve Quinn (with ball) attempts to make progress during the win against Kettering.
Ilkeston player Steve Quinn (with ball) attempts to make progress during the win against Kettering.

ILKESTON RUFC recorded their seventh win in a row on Saturday to maintain their play-off hopes.

Midlands One (East)

Ilkeston RUFC 24

Kettering 7

THE race to finish in second place and seal a play-off spot will go down to the final day of the season once again after in-form Ilkeston RUFC secured another victory.

There was a feeling of deja vu at the Stute as the calculators were produced to confirm the Elks can still claim second spot, exactly the situation they found themselves in this time last season only to be disappointed at the final hurdle.

As with last year, the Elks need to win their game away at Spalding while Paviors lose theirs at home to Market Rasen.

This was a must-win encounter as the two sides looked to keep the season alive until the final weekend.

The Elks started favourites with home advantage and a run of seven wins on the bounce but Kettering, who have occupied one of the top four league positions all season, were not to be underestimated.

Kettering had first advantage of the breeze and slope and Bridgeman and Bryan made good use of the boot to make the home side play from deep, something the Elks were more than prepared to do.

Turnovers by Adam Corcoran, Greg Taylor and Marc Moore provided ball to launchprobes by Lewis Taylor, Jono Falls and Steve Quinn but the Kettering defence was equal to the task.

A breakout by Townsend instigated a flowing move involving Stephen Fowkes, Simon Bennett, Mattt McGuire and Joel Haigh which put Ben Gatehouse in but he was hauled down just short of the line.

As both sides strove to find a rhythm the Elks were disrupted when Quinn was forced off with a hamstring injury to be be replaced by Tom McKelvey with only 15 minutes gone.

The first clear cut chance came 20 minutes in when Daniels’ penalty from 50 metres fell short, and Kettering had a second chance ten minutes later when Smidt broke from deep and linked with Newman to put Sumner clear but desperate defence forced him into touch in the corner.

Enjoying a slight advantage in territory and possession, Kettering’s task was given a boost when Fowkes received a yellow card folowing an altercation with Crooks.

Making the most of the extra man Kettering’s Poole peeled off the back of a line-out and made ground into the Elks 22 where only Dan Mahoney’s intervention prevented a score.

Putting his body on the line resulted in damaged ribs and he too was forced off to be replaced by Scott Rudkin.

The Elks fought their way back up field and following a McKelvey line-out take Alex Ayres broke in midfield and earned a penalty which Falls converted to give the home side a 3-0 lead at half-time.

The Elks were first out of the blocks in the second-half and extended their lead to 10-0 with only two minutes gone.

Jack Townsend secured a turnover and linked with Ben Wells and Moore to earn a line-out inside the Kettering half. Fowkes secured the throw and Rudkin peeled from the back to link with Greg Taylor who powered into the 22. His pass found McGuire and he offloaded to McKelvey whose strength took him over the line. Falls secured the extras.

Clever inter-play and swift hands from Haigh, Gatehouse, Fowkes and Corcoran then earned Falls a long penalty shot and although his effort fell just short, Lewis Taylor’s chase earned a five metre scrum.

A solid scrum and shunt looked looked to have earned try for Corcoran but he was deemed held up. The second attempt, however, achieved the desired result with Rudkin claiming the try. Falls’ conversion made it 17-0.

The closing stages produced some flowing rugby with both sides willing to move the ball, Ilkeston looking for bonus point tries and Kettering to rescue the game.

As time ran out a fine move the length of the park saw final inroads from Rudkin and Greg Taylor provide the finishing touches for Ayres to crash over. Man-of-the-match Falls’ conversion made it 24-0.

Kettering claimed a consolation try when an Elks mistake from the re-start allowed Newman to hack through, gather and score between the posts. Daniels’ conversion left 24-7 at the final whistle.

Classic Drinks man-of-the-match - Jono Falls.