Determined Ilkeston shrugged off several positional changes and a pitch switch to batter Bugbrooke and romp to a well-deserved victory.
Heavy overnight rain forced the Elks to move the National League, Midlands 1 East division match to their second-team pitch. And a much-changed team featured a new-look back row of Tom Pottinger, Dan and Greg Taylor.
But they were up for it from the off and carved out a whitewash win of 37-0 against their Northamptonshire visitors. It moved them up to sixth in the table and was the perfect confidence-boost ahead of this Saturday’s big NLD Cup semi-final against Derby at The Stute.
Although Dan Taylor was carded late in the game after being adjudged to have handled in the scrum, Elks’ new number eight, Greg Taylor, took the man-of-the-match award. The back row caused many problems for the opposition, while the lineout was a massive improvement on the previous week and gave a fine platform for the backs to work from.
Despite a biting wind, Ilkeston’s intentions were made clear from the start as they camped in the Bugbrooke 22 area. The pressure eventually told as an overlap was created for Jack Partington to round the defence and sprint through to score under the posts. Joel Haigh added the extras to give the hosts a 7-0 lead as early as the sixth minute.
Elks spurned two more terrific chances as handling errors halted the attacks, but it wasn’t long before Bugbrooke were penalised at the breakdown and Haigh slotted the kick to extend the lead to ten.
The visitors hit back and after an attack on the right, Alex Ayres was penalised and yellow-carded for handling on the floor. Bugbrooke tried to take advantage of the extra player but good defensive work, especially from Haigh, kept them at bay, and instead, it was Elks who scored next after a fine steal by Greg Taylor, who drew the last defender and fed Aaron Garvey to register his first try for the first team.
The lead was stretched to 18-0 by the 38th minute when Haigh slotted another penalty, and on the stroke of half-time, Greg Taylor darted over for a try, which was duly converted, to give Ilkeston a commanding 25-0 advantage.
Early in the second period, Bugbrooke enjoyed their best spell of the match, but Elks’ mobile back row were all over the pitch and earned several turnovers.
When the visitors sent up a loose kick, a tremendous counter-attack was launched by Andor Benji and Richard Synnott, who offloaded to Greg Taylor before the ball was quickly recycled and Jake Lamb pierced the defence to score under the posts. With Haigh again adding the extras, the score was now 32-0 with 23 minutes still to play.
Elks continued to dominate and they added one more try in the 69th minute when, after several phases of play, the ball was moved to Pottinger, who burst through two tackles to score on the right wing. For once, Haigh missed the difficult conversion.