Last ten minutes epitomises Bulls season with three try flourish
Absent skipper Ollie Bartlett announced a squad with ten changes with the words, “Saturday is the last game of an unforgettable season as we seek to finish with 100 points”. The spirit and determination of the Bulls were fully displayed with another memorable finish to a game at the Chicken Shack.
With multiple absences and the 2nd XV contesting a final away, St. Ives 1sts were indebted to irregulars Tim Lumley-Good, Mickey Blackley
and George Peacock
to start the game with fifteen men. Finalists Rob Olivier
and Joe Cox were also applauded soundly by their teammates as they raced back to the Club to make fine appearances off the bench.
Playing uphill but backed by a strong wind, Ives realised they were facing a highly motivated Rushden side. Attacks were repelled by the visitors as they fought well for the ball at the breakdown. There was little they could do, however, when the returning wrecking bull that is Gabriel Edwards
found himself within five metres of the line at the end of some pounding pressure by the Ives. Twisting and turning through the defence, he touched down by the posts. Paul Ashbridge
stepped up to convert.
Rushden were in no mood to roll over and ran the ball from deep, the full back in particular showing some incisive running.
Towards the end of the first quarter, good pressure up front kept Rushden on their own line, the Ives eight led by Duncan Williams
, who had another fine match. It seemed the visitors were being let off the hook as a number of chances went begging for the Ives.
Finally, a 5 metre scrum saw Peacock release Jack Blackley
down the blind side. Blackley drew the last defender and left Albiee Tayedzerwa to dive over in the corner.
Whilst much of the rest of the half was played in Rushden’s half, they had the ball. It was stern Ives defence across the park, with Edwards prominent again, that left the score 12-0 at half time.
Turning to face the breeze, Ives were pegged back in their own half. Attempting to run a relieving penalty, Mickey Drake
was tripped, for which the offender was shown yellow. The incident galvanised Rushden into action. Having run the ball to the halfway line, Ives knocked on and gave up possession.
From the scrum, a simple transference beyond the blitzing Ives defence left the full back with space to draw the last Ives defender and put the winger into the corner.
Having scored while a man down, Rushden’s tails were up. For the following twenty minutes they frustrated the Ives attacks and had many of the own which came up against good defence.
The introduction of debutant Cox coincided with Ives best period of play. Saving the best until last, the Bulls began to play with fluidity and purpose as their opponents tired.
Linking with the jinking Pete Fahey, Cox was released down the left wing and maintained possession. The ball was quickly recycled and Ashbridge, who was a rock in the centre throughout for the hosts, finally burst free of the shackles of his opposite number, who had worked hard to keep him under wraps all game. With just ten minutes to go, he burst through in midfield and touched down close in, converting his own try.
With a 14 point advantage Ives relaxed. Shortly after the restart, excellent communication by Josh Meadows
spotted space behind the Rushden defence. A deft chip by Drake was gathered by Tayedzerwa who scampered down the touchline. The cheers were loud as the watching fans realised that the try bonus point had been secured and thus the 100 point target in sight.
Any thoughts that the victory was threatened were immediately quashed. From the kick off, Ives span the ball wide and released Cox again. The handling between forwards and backs had Rushden back pedalling fast until Tom Watts forced his way over the line.
With time elapsing, there was still enough for a silly fracas to break out and a player from each side not see the last minute of the season as they were shown yellow.
To their credit, Rushden continued playing and kept the ball alive long enough to score after the 80 minutes had expired.
Stand-in skipper Drake was very happy. “Recognising that we were a scratch side, it showed the quality we have to be able to finish the season like that. The boys can be proud. Credit also to Rushden, who made it very difficult for us until we managed to pull away at the end.”