It never Raines…….
Dominant pack lays foundation for historic triumph
A large crowd braved the bitter easterly wind as Somersham Road hosted the Midlands final of the RFU Senior Vase. Conditions were heavy underfoot for spectators and players alike, but the onlookers were treated to a finely contested match between the leaders of their respective divisions.
The Bulls began the game at a gallop. Receiving the kick off deep in their own half, great supporting play saw them sweep upfield and almost score in the first minutes. A penalty attempt into the teeth of the gale was blown back to the Ives and pressure mounted. Long Eaton defended stoutly and eventually broke the siege after ten minutes with a long drop out.
With their first decent possession, the visitors attacked the Ives line, but the hosts were in no mood to let them through. An offside at the breakdown, however, gave Long Eaton a simple penalty in front of the posts. Even so, it took a deflection off the upright to convert.
Ives were stung into action and began to play with improved ball retention and continuity. Long Eaton’s defence was finally stretched enough for Paul Ashbridge
to barge his way through the midfield and score under the posts. He converted his own try.
The second quarter of the match was dominated by the Ives pack. They began to bully their opponents in the set piece. It was only due to the extraordinary efforts of Long Eaton in scrambling defence that prevented a score. Ashbridge and skipper Ollie Bartlett
were both held up over the line.
A series of 5 metre scrums saw Ives driving forward, but they could not land the ball over the try line. With half time approaching, a penalty was awarded to Long Eaton for Ives being offside, allowing them to clear their lines with relief.
At the break, with the score just 7-3, Ives were still in confident mood. The plan for the second half was more of the same, and to keep patient with the ball in hand.
Long Eaton started the half well, clearly deciding to move the ball through the hands more. As so often this season, Ives defence was firm. After multiple phases, the visitors finally coughed up possession and Ives drove them back to their own 22.
It was again Long Eaton’s turn to defend. They kept Ives out for some minutes.
Once again, Ashbridge surged through the defence and was held up over the line. The reprieve was short lived for Long Eaton. A superb scrum by the Bulls marched them back over their line and Ollie Raine
completed the formalities by dotting down. Ashbridge converted.
Long Eaton once more attacked. Moving the ball well between forwards and backs, they made their way into the home 22. A penalty was kicked to touch. A catch and drive was superbly executed with speed and precision. For once, Ives were taken unawares and found themselves back pedalling over their own line as Long Eaton finally got reward for their efforts. The try was unconverted.
With the score now 14-8, there was tension on the sidelines, but not on the pitch. The Ives pack took the game by the scruff of the neck and tightened the Bulls grip on the game. A punishing series of drives saw them to within 5 metres of the line, only for the ball to be lost forward.
No matter. With a devastating surge, Ives drove Long Eaton off their own ball, marched them back and Raine completed his double.
Long Eaton tried valiantly to reduce the arrears, but could find no way out of their half due to the suffocating defence of the Ives across the park.
As the final whistle went the Ives supporters were in raptures, celebrating the players’ achievement in bringing the Midlands Senior Vase to the Chicken Shack.
Skipper Bartlett was jubilant. “How good does that feel? It’s a just reward for all the hard work the players have put in so far this season. Our aim has always been promotion, but this is something very special for the players and the Club.”
The trip to Wath Upon Dearne for the national semi-final in two weeks is eagerly awaited.