Defeat academic as Elks miss out on the play-offs

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ILKESTON RUFC’s season ended in disappointment on Saturday as they missed out on a play-off spot.

Midlands One (East)

Spalding 13

Ilkeston RUFC 12

ILKESTON RUFC’s season ended in disappointment on Saturday as they missed out on a play-off spot.

The Elks needed to win at Spalding and hope second-place Paviors lost at home to Market Rasen, but with neither outcome happening it was a case of so near yet so far as the season drew to a close.

Spalding, meanwhile, needed a win to guarantee survival from relegation, and with all three sides below them also successful this victory proved crucial.

As the constant updates were fed through from the crowd to the players, the difference was perceptable as Ilkeston watched their fate being decided elsewhere and Spalding dug deeper to ensure their survival.

The atrocious conditions, with driving rain and a pitch, showing the wear of a long season, more resembling a skating rink, did not suit running rugby and the game was a litany of errors with dropped ball and penalties for players going off their feet a feature.

To his credit Mr Ward, the referee, did his best to adapt to the conditions and allow for advantage to be played where possible, although his interpretation at the numerous scrums, where Ilkeston were totally dominant, did raise some debate.

The early stages suggested a romp for the visitors as they raced into a 0-7 lead after ten minutes.

Despite the conditions the Elks’ intention to keep the ball in hand and stretch the game paid dividends in the opening exchanges.

Moving the ball from deep, Jono Falls, Dan Taylor, Tom McKelvey and Greg Taylor earned a line-out inside Spalding’s 22. Steve Fowkes secured the throw, the forwards mauled towards the line, Adam Corcoran peeled off and muscled his way over.

Falls converted from the touchline.

The keep the ball in hand tactic paid dividends seven minutes later with a second try.

Recycling through numerous phases and superb hands considering the conditions, from Matt McGuire, Marc Moore, Simon Bennett and Lewis Taylor, took play close to the Spalding line.

Quick ruck ball from Joel Haigh fed Scott Rudkin and his finely timed pass to Ben Gatehouse put him into the corner to stretch the score to 0-12.

Although the Elks dominated the possession and enjoyed the lion’s share of territory, the home side’s tenacity and endeavour never faltered and they tackled with a ferocity that kept the waves of attack at bay.

When the opportunity presented itself they showed an ability to make the most of slender pickings.

With Brown, Williams and Chappell willing ball carriers and Anker and Sharman scavenging to keep them in the contest, chances were bound to to come.

The first on 32 minutes followed a line out take and swift delivery into midfield.

The elusive Williamson ghosted through a gap and fed Adams who finished in style to make it 5-12 at half-time.

The news from the sidelines and deteriorating conditions set the agenda for the second-half.

The Elks continued to dominate possession but failed to capitalise on ball provided and territorial advantage.

Early in the half Spalding reduced the arrears when Lucas kicked a simple penalty to bring the score to 8-12.

News from afar continued to drift in and Spalding’s resolve was visable as they repulsed wave after wave of Ilkeston assault.

The Elks created opportunities but desperate defence and the conditions denied them a score which would have deflated the home side.

As the game entered injury-time Spalding mounted one final onslaught but Elks appeared to have survived until a poor defensive kick and even poorer chase, coupled with three missed tackles, saw Adams claim his second try, and probably the freedom of Spalding, to secure a narrow 13-12 victory and survival for next season.

Classic Drinks Man of the Match - Joel Haigh.

Ilkeston face Derby in the semi-final of the Derbyshire Cup at the Stute on Wednesday, with a trip to Matlock awaiting the winners this Saturday