Bulls get season back on track with tremendous performance
Ollie Raines on Vipers parade
Given the inclement weather of recent days and the Clubhouse pitch waterlogged, Ives significant investment in drainage, supported by Sport England, garnered an initial reward with the first senior match on the surface.
Having had three weeks without a game, this was as complete a performance by the Bulls as could have been hoped for. Vipers had lost to Ives twice already this season in close fought games, and came to the Chicken Shack with intent. But, they had no answer in particular to the powerful defensive effort of the hosts.
Ives played into the breeze in the first half and were initially pinned in their own half. Vipers pounded the blue line, but as was the case all afternoon, it held firm.
playing at 10 kept the ball in hand and broke the first line of defence. John Naylor
was in close support and released Ollie Raine
. Raine swept upfield and fed his skipper Ollie Bartlett
. Despite the move breaking down just short of the line, Ives had served notice.
Vipers attempted clearance was fielded by Ben Fleming
who, along with Jack Blackley
and Albiee Tayedzerwa, had a fine game at the back. He skipped upfield, feeding Blackley whose dancing feet took him past more defenders. Once again Ashbridge and Raine were in close support and drove Vipers back to the line. Pounding the defence, Raine eventually recovered the ball and dotted down by the post, the try duly converted by veteran Jim Robinson
Vipers chose to tighten the game up and use their big pack in an attempt to bully Ives into submission. Their mauling game is well practiced. So, is Ives defence. Even a couple of close in lineouts for Vipers following penalties saw the same results – maul formed, effort expended, standstill due to strong defence, chance lost. Vipers kicked one penalty during the siege.
The Ives pack collectively played superbly all game. As the half was drawing to a close, Ives had another superb upfield surge with the ball being offloaded between front, second and back rowers alike as Joshes Meadows and Dear linked with Duncan Williams
, Tommy Newman
, Matt Wood
and Gabriel Edwards
. Vipers managed to thwart the attack and the half closed 7-3.
The second half was a beautiful exhibition of game management. Whereas his opposite number’s radar had been a little awry, Ashbridge’s kicking from hand was rapier-like. Vipers continued to press through their forwards, but the massive Ives defensive effort continually forced turnovers, after which Ashbridge would pin Vipers back in their own 22 with raking touch finders.
Ives lineout was also functioning like a well-oiled machine, both in attack and defensively, putting increasing pressure on the visitors. Their frustration became evident as they sought other means to put Ives off their stride, but the Bulls remained disciplined.
With Ives varying the attack points continuously, Vipers found themselves offside and coughed up a penalty, points taken.
With the game entering its last quarter, an Ives scrum on Vipers’ 22 was awarded. With the defence wary of the outside calls from amongst others Pete Fahey, they spread wide. Raine picked from the base and sauntered untouched in for a second converted try.
Realising that even a bonus point was now lost, Vipers threw caution to the wind and started to run the ball from anywhere. But, Ives were defending every yard of the pitch and kept their opponents at bay.
The visitors infringed with ill-discipline following a decision, the penalty was kicked and Ives were three scores ahead.
The final passages of play saw Vipers throw everything they had at Ives. Determined to keep them tryless, Ives superb defensive display was typified by Tayedzerwa who decked his opposite number just short of the line as the match drew to a close.
Skipper Bartlett was an exhausted, but very happy man. “To put on a performance like that after three weeks without a game is a credit to all the lads. We had to work really hard against this strong Vipers side and we thoroughly deserved the win.”