Curate’s egg* of a performance ends on a high note for the Bulls
Bulls stretch lead at the top of the table to keep century target alive
St. Ives were pleased to be playing on the Clubhouse pitch at Somersham Road for the first time in many months. With the prevailing wind in their faces, Ives faced a determined and spirited Dunstablians side that had come to spoil the party for the onlooking crowd of vice presidents and guests.
Dees started the better and kept the Ives on the back foot. Unusually twitchy, Ives were finding it difficult to keep passes to hand. The Dees 10 pinned Ives back with some raking kicks to the touchline.
After quarter of an hour, a mighty Garryowen was not dealt with at the back by the Bulls. The ball bounced into the arms of the onrushing winger, who released his teammate to give the visitors the first score.
As has oft been the tale this season, the Ives forwards began to put the pressure on their opponents. Duncan Williams
began to batter the Dunstablians midfield with some excellent carries. The odd half break was coming to naught, however, as chances went begging on the fringes.
The breakthrough came after Ives turned over the visitors scrum and made ground to their opponents 22. Another scrum followed and great support play off the back finally saw the returning new-Dad Matt Wood
score. Paul Ashbridge
stepped up to convert.
Immediately from the kick off, Dees were back in front. The ball was not claimed by the hosts, allowing the Dees pack to recover the ball and drive forward. It was all of twenty seconds from the restart before they were over the Bulls line again. This time the effort was converted.
Ives were shaken back in to action and began a series of phases that brought reward. Mickey Drake
heard the call from Josh Dear
, whose incisive line in midfield took him deep into the visitors’ 22. A simple draw and pass saw the ball end up with John Naylor
who dotted down untouched to complete a superb try. Ashbridge converted for Ives to regain the lead.
Dunstablians had one more opportunity in the half with a lineout close in. Stout defence meant they were penalised for not releasing and the danger was averted.
Half time 14-12.
Needing to look after the ball better Ives started the second half well with the slope and breeze now in their favour. Unfortunately, a mistimed tackle by Dear saw yellow.
Despite being a man down, Ives were still looking to run with ball in hand. Against the run of play a forced pass on the outside was intercepted by the Dees winger who outpaced the scrambling defence to score in the corner.
There followed a period of frustration for the home players as they could not find a way to adjust to the breakdown officiating. The penalty count began to mount against them, keeping them in their own half.
Dees could find no way through the good Ives defence, with Alex Henly
and Ashbridge prominent with some thumping tackles. Finally a turnover led to decent possession and Ives finally broke into the visitors’ half. The ball was swept across the park and Pete Fahey was able to crash over by the corner flag. Ashbridge slotted an excellent conversion from the touchline.
It was still not plain sailing for the Ives as penalties were still being shipped, one leading to a ten minute rest for Jack Blackley
Williams was again to the fore as Ives finally asserted themselves on their tiring opponents. A penalty was put to the corner. Ives had their opponents under pressure. From a passage following a scrum, Ollie Bartlett
was held up over the line.
The Dees pack offended to keep out the first surge. Ives chose to reset the scrum. To his disappointment at number 8, Josh Meadows
progress to the line was halted as Dees collapsed the scrum. But, the arbiter did not hesitate to award a penalty bonus-point-securing try.
Finally relaxing, Ives began to move the ball with some of the fluidity they have shown throughout the season. As the ball was transferred hither and thither, Bartlett was on hand for the final pass and scored the last points of the game.
From the sidelines, coach Brown summarised, “That was a messy game, from which we are happy to have emerged with the five points. We scored some great tries, but in between allowed ourselves to get frustrated and as a result went a bit off script. We’ll look forward to Rushden’s visit next week as we try to reach three figures of points.”
*”The curate’s egg was good and bad in parts” ;-)