Bulls secure championship after first half scare
Skipper Bartlett leads by example as team pulls together to dominate second half
Knowing that victory would assure the Bulls of the league title, there were many supporters at the Chicken Shack to witness the match. The game started in helter skelter fashion and not to the supporters’ liking!
From the kick off, a knock on gave a fired up Biggleswade side a scrum in the home 22. Offside in the midfield gave the simplest of penalties and the hosts found themselves 3 points down in the first minute.
Worse was to follow as Biggleswade kicked the ball back immediately from the restart. The ball was lost by Ives and the fleet-footed winger following up collected and sprinted in for a try. The conversion made it 10-0 to the visitors with only 4 minutes played.
Ives were stung into action and a superb series of phases saw them sweep the length of the field with fluidity. With the Biggleswade defence stretched, Mickey Drake
ran on to the ball at full tilt to score, converted by Paul Ashbridge
Any thoughts that Ives would have a comfortable ride were quickly dispelled, however. Biggleswade were intent on spoiling the party. Playing with patience and direct running, they were kept out by good Ives defence. But, another offside saw them add a further 3 points.
With the watching crowd assembled expecting to celebrate a comfortable victory, nervousness crept into the home decision making. Ives lost possession running from deep and just one missed tackle allowed the Biggleswade back rower through for a converted score.
Ives were looking down the barrel and responded in fine style. A poor exit from defence by the visitors was turned over in midfield. Ives broke and a superb line by Ollie Bartlett
saw him breach the defensive wall and score close in. Converted.
Half time 14-20.
Playing with the elements in the second half, Ives were immediately pegged back after another offside decision and found themselves nine points adrift.
But, the Bulls are not at the top for no reason. The collective desire shone through and Ives, with Mickey Drake
pulling the strings at stand-off, began to dominate territory.
Upping of the tempo and being much more belligerent at the breakdown saw dividends. Biggleswade were struggling to contain the onrushing Bulls and the penalty count swung against them. A quick tap taken by the alert John Naylor
led to a stirring passage of pay. The crowd was purring as the continuity witnessed oft-times this season finally surfaced. The line was finally reached as skipper Bartlett darted in for his second. Converted.
Whilst still down by two points, the confidence flooding back into the Ives veins was evident. It seemed inevitable that the bonus point try would come. When it did, it was a lovely chip over the onrushing defence by Drake that created it. Regathering the ball, he stepped the full back and released Pete Fahey who sprinted down the touchline to score. The conversion by Ashbridge from wide out was deserved icing on the cake and drew a huge roar from the sidelines.
Biggleswade were now under the cosh. Back from his world travels, Tom Watts charged down an attempted clearance kick. It was absolutely fitting that Bartlett capped his own magnificent display on the day by touching down the loose ball for his hat trick.
After the euphoria of the Midlands cup triumph, there was more quiet satisfaction apparent having secured the league title. “We were slow out of the blocks today,” said Bartlett after the game. “Biggleswade played very well in the first half and we had to adjust. It’s a mark of our development that we played the way we did in the second half and we deserve to be where we are.”