Ilkeston RUFC 15 Newark 23
Ilkeston began the new season on a losing note as visitors Newark claimed the points at the Stute on Saturday.
The Elks did not follow the normal script at home and put in a well under-par performance to lose the opening game as they attempt to go one better and earn promotion following their near miss last season.
Several regulars were missing, giving opportunities to the returning Tom Holland, Simon Bennett who was back after long term injury, Jack Partington at number ten Kartar Soar on the flank.
The Elks began brightly and took the lead when Newark were caught offside after Jake Smithurst launched an attack, Joel Haigh getting the first points on the board for a 3-0 lead.
Newark didn’t take long to respond, however, as following a scrum they broke through the midfield, where the ball was recycled and the first try was scored on eight minutes, the conversion missed to leave the score 3-5.
The lead was extended minutes later when Elks were penalised for feeding at a scrum and Newark cleared to touch. They took a clean catch from the line-out and Elks were caught offside, the penalty kicked after 14 minutes extending Newark’s lead to 8-3.
Elks were struggling for any continuity and tactically were very naïve, trying to run ball which should really have been kicked deep using the slope advantage.
Ilkeston then attacked through Matt McGuire and Greg Taylor and forced their way deep into the Newark 22. The ball was moved right and following a good drive from Chris Tipton, Adam Corcoran was on hand to force his way over on 19 minutes, converted by Haigh to give Elks the lead at 10-8.
Elks were dominant in the scrum but Newark were still looking after the ball well, scoring again on 18 minutes with another conversion missed leaving the score at 13-10 to the visitors at half-time.
Elks began the second-half brightly and still dominatedthe scrum but Newark did well to retain possession.
Newark’s tactical game was better than the Elks and they extended their lead on 58 minutes when as Ilkeston moved the ball left it was intercepted and the visiting player sprinted clear to score under the posts, this try converted to make it 20-10 to the Notts side.
The game was now littered with mistakes as Elks played catch up rugby and both sides tired, although Newark looked to have the edge on fitness.
Newark extended their lead further with a penalty on 71 minutes, but a try back for Ilkeston two minutes later gave the hosts some hope.
The Elks attacked through Haigh and Newark were penalised. Alex Ayres took a quick tap and the ball was recycled quickly and moved to Greg Taylor to score after 73 minutes, the conversion missed making it 15-23.
The sides traded late chances as the Elks tried in vain for the losing bonus point but Newark held firm and kicked dead to bring full-time 15-23.
Newark thoroughly deserved their victory, playing with more hunger and tactically much better.
The Elks will be bitterly disappointed with the way they lost and at times looked short of ideas - the line-out will certainly require work in the following week.
A much-improved performance will be required this weekend as Ilkeston travel to Old Northamptonians who are traditionally very strong at home.