Ilkeston 31 Mansfield 15
The Elks reached their first ever Three Counties Cup final with a resounding 31-15 victory over Mansfield on Saturday.
The game was played as a league and cup double header after the recent bad weather led to a fixture backlog.
Elks had lost at Mansfield early in the season but with the team now looking more settled were hoping to turn things around.
Elks began the game with the slope advantage but the strong blustery wind caused problems for both sides.
The home side took the lead after nine minutes, as the ball was moved out to the right where Isaac Taylor finished strongly to score the first try. Joel Haigh missed the extras from out wide.
Mansfield responded quickly and following good work in midfield had a line out in an attacking position. The ball was caught cleanly and driven over to level the score after 16 minutes, the conversion missed in the windy conditions.
Mansfield then conceded three penalties in quick succession for various scrum offences and following a fourth infringement the referee awarded a penalty try after 27 minutes, Haigh adding the extras to make it 12-5.
The lead was soon stretched further as following a scrum, the ball was recycled and Reuben Alley was on hand to pick up and drive over on 36 minutes, Haigh converting to stretch the lead to 19-5 at half-time.
Mansfield now had the slope for the second-half and were soon in the Elks 22. They kept the pressure on and forced their way over after 42 minutes, the try converted to reduce the lead to 19-12.
Elks responded well and used the dominant scrum to gain territory. From another advancing scrum the ball was moved quickly right and recycled to create a clear overlap for Alex Ayres who ran in unopposed after 49 minutes, Haigh missing the conversion, making it 24-12
A penalty reduced the arrears to 24-15 but Ilkeston were soon on the scoreboard again as Ayres again showed his power to burst through and score with Haigh converting to make it 31-15, from which point Elks ran the clock down to run out victors.
This was an excellent team performance highlighted by the dominance in the scrum which created space for the backs.
Man of the match deservedly went to one of the front row with Tom Holland getting the nod just in front of Marc Moore and Matt McGuire.
History was made for the club as it will now be a first appearance for the team in an NLD cup final.
Scunthorpe from the league above are Ilkeston’s opponents on April 26 at Matlock RFC with a 3.30pm kick-off.
Elks are back to league action this week, away at Market Rasen.