A youthful Yorkshire Carnegie side produced the club’s best performance of the season so far to defeat Ulster Ravens in Belfast 22-17 in their latest British & Irish Cup pool game.
Having lost their last three games in all competitions, Yorkshire were desperate to get back to winning ways but the manner in which they played in this game suggests they are beginning to rediscover the attacking swagger that earned them a reputation as the entertainers in last season’s Championship.
They crossed for three tries in total and could have scored more but for the final pass going down on a number of occasions. However, with teenagers Dan Tai and Taylor Prell on the wing and a host of youngsters on the field for the final quarter, this will be a morale-boosting victory for the whole squad.
Yorkshire cancelled out an early penalty from Peter Nelson when Chris Walker was driven over the line from a lineout 10 metres from the Ulster line.
Nelson edged his side in front with a second penalty after McIlwaine had missed the conversion, but the visitors always looked the more likely to score the next try.
They did so when the Walker brothers, Chris and Jack, combined in midfield to release Prell down the touchline and he passed back inside for Tai to score between the posts.
Former York junior Tai has played for Leeds Rhinos Under-19s during the summer and he showed great speed to finish off the try.
Ulster, who included Ireland international centre Luke Marshall and first-team regulars Ricky Andrew and Nelson in their backline, got themselves back into the game with another penalty from Nelson and a drop goal from Josh Bingham to level the score at 12-12 at half-time.
However, Yorkshire then responded in fine style at the start of the second half with Tai crossing for his second try after showing great strength after initially being stopped short of the line.
McIlwaine curled the conversion in from the touchline and then added a penalty against his former club to give the visitors a well-deserved 10-point lead.
Ulster battled hard in the final quarter to cut the gap, but Yorkshire’s defence held firm and the home side only got over in the final second for a consolation losing bonus point when centre Jacob Stockdale touched down.
The conversion was missed and Carnegie had recorded an impressive 22-17 victory on the road, bringing some much-needed relief.
Ulster Ravens: Andrew, Owens, Stockdale, Marshall (Adair, 32), Nelson, Bingham (O’Hagan, 75) Creighton (Young, 53); Ryan, Jackson (Andrew, 50), Ross (Lutton, 43), McComb (C) (Donnan, 75), Simpson (Taggart, 75), Reidy, Joyce, Butterworth
Yorkshire Carnegie: Georgiou, Prell, Vickerman, Clarke, Tai, McIlwaine, Dudman (Goss, 60) (Allen, 70), Beech (Boyce, 52), J Walker (Hayes, 50), Hooper (Hill, 60), Hannay, Casson (Preston-Routledge, 50), Barnard (Raymond, 58), C Walker (c), Williams
Referee: Craig Evans (IRFU).