Hungry Ilkeston produced a superb all-round performance to stun high-flying local-derby rivals Derby and roar into the final of the Nottinghamahire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire (NLD) Cup.
One of their best displays of the season earned Elks a 23-17 victory in a semi-final that also doubled up as a National League match after the previous week’s cancellation because of a waterlogged pitch.
Home side Derby were favourites because they sit second in the Midlands 1 East table, four places above their visitors. But with their forwards dominant for long periods of the tie and their backs always dangerous with ball in hand, Ilkeston fully deserved their triumph. In the final, they will face Scunthorpe, who are going great guns in the division above.
Derby did open the scoring in the second minute with a try in the corner after a loose pass had been pounced on. But Elks responded well and when Jake Lamb broke from the base of the scrum and made 30 metres, he offloaded to Steve Mahoney to finish the move off and level.
From then on, Ilkeston’s forwards began to turn the screw, forcing the hosts to concede breakdown penalties. This allowed Lamb to kick for territory and with the line-out working well, the visitors maintained the ball and kept up the attacks.
After Derby had received a yellow card, Elks went in front on 26 minutes when the Elks pack produced a mighty shove in the scrum and pushed the home side off their own ball. Chris Tipton took advantage and crashed over for a try.
Moments later, from another turnover ball, Lamb broke blind and linked with Tom Pottinger, who made good ground. When the ball was recycled, it was quickly switched right to create an overlap for Richard Synott, who sprinted clear for an easy try to make the score 15-5.
Elks continued to attack with Alex Ayres proving a handful in the centres, and the first half ended 18-5 after Derby were caught offside and Lamb kicked a well-struck penalty.
Derby hit back strongly in the second period, but they fell further behind on the hour when the unstoppable Greg Taylor burst through from close range.
Despite continuing to struggle to hold back the Elks pack, the home team did score a try in the corner on 69 minutes to reduce the deficit to 23-10. And as the visitors began to tire after their huge effort in the opening 70 minutes, Derby continued to attack.
After Greg Taylor had taken one for the team and was yellow-carded in the 78th minute, Derby took advantage of the extra man and scored again with a try that was converted. But it was too late to spoil Ilkeston’s day as the referee called last play from the kick-off and the ball was soon kicked dead.
This Saturday (2.15 pm), Elks will be hoping to produce the same kind of desire at home to Huntingdon