Ilkeston take over at the top after a crucial result against title rivals
ILKESTON have climbed into pole position in the race for the Midlands One East title after beating promotion rivals Old Northamptonians.
ONs arrived at the Stute on Saturday in top spot but were only above the Elks by virtue of having won more games.
By the end of the match, that had all changed.
Ilkeston now lead the way by two points – with four matches remaining.
The top four teams have all won 17 of their 22 fixtures so far, losing five, but the Elks have collected the most bonus points.
ONs have dropped to fourth, with Bedford Athletic and Peterborough Lions both winning at the weekend.
The Elks took an early lead against their Northamptonshire opponents through a Joel Haigh penalty.
However, the visitors hit back to lead 8-3 at half-time after Matt Love scored an unconverted try and Tom Goodman slotted over a penalty.
Ilkeston regained the lead, though, after 53 minutes.
An attempted chip over the home backs was collected by full-back Greg Taylor and he weaved his way through from 50 metres out to score a fine solo try under the posts.
Haigh's conversion was a formality and after that, Ilkeston did not loosen their grip on the game.
Their pressure eventually told in the closing stages, when skipper Adam Corcoran ploughed his way over from a scrum close to the line.
Haigh's conversion attempt from out wide was unsuccessful, which meant ONs hung on to claim a losing bonus point.
"It was a very close game, as you would expect," said Ilkeston coach David Jackson.
"We spent a lot of the game defending, especially in the first half, but we did that very well.
"It's a shame we didn't quite get going with the ball in hand but conditions weren't conducive to champagne rugby.
"We improved in the second half, though, and managed to score two tries, while still defending well.
"We needed to win and I would like to think we deserved it.
"They had a lot of territory and possession in the first half but we kept them out, except for one occasion, when they scored from a quick tap penalty which we didn't react to quickly enough."
Ilkeston are in NLD Cup semi-final action at Paviors this weekend, before another crunch clash in the league away to the third-placed Lions.
"We're only two points clear and we've got four tough league games left, so we're not getting ahead of ourselves," said Jackson.
"But we've got ourselves into a good position and it's up to us to make the most of it.
"It's going to go right to the wire and some of the top teams still have to play each other, so not everyone can win all their games.
"But we're top now and the challenge is to make sure we stay there. It's in our hands."