Bulls fall agonisingly short
Atrocious weather does not prevent entertaining encounter
St. Ives were left to rue what might have been after a game of very fine margins ended with the scores within one point.
With the temperature hovering around zero, the Bulls started play into the driving rain and a strong wind. Handling was never going to be easy. Attempting to make their way upfield, the ball was knocked on by Ives. Bugbrooke swooped and after some indecisive tackle attempts by the Ives, a neat grubber into the corner was touched down by the home winger.
Ives stormed back and applied pressure. A defender was deemed to have been off his feet at the breakdown. Paul Ashbridge
stepped up to kick three points.
There were opportunities for the hosts to stretch their lead, but one dart down the touchline was superbly stemmed by the diving Jim Robinson
, who tap-tackled the winger who spilled the ball.
The Bull’s defensive pressure was telling as Bugbrooke also found difficulty holding on to the slippery ball. From a scrum following another knock on, John Naylor
dummied and darted through a gap. Ollie Raine
was in support and the two on one was simply executed for him to score wide out.
Unfortunately for the visitors, from the kick off a sliced clearance kick attempt stayed infield and was taken by the Bugbrooke full back. Moving the ball well, the home outside backs found space to score again in the corner.
Given the conditions, the best passage of play by Ives followed. Showing immense patience as they were held out by strong defence, Ives edged there way towards the try line. Time and again, Ives went close. Holding on to possession through well over twenty phases, the defence finally splintered giving Tommy Newman
, who had a fine game in the tight and loose, the chance to score.
On a day when kicking was a total lottery, the conversion attempt hit the upright and stayed the wrong side for Ives, who ended the half 13-10 to the good.
Ives began the second half well with more energy and direct running giving them momentum. A superb line was taken by Duncan Williams
close in. As he was charging towards the try line, to the surprise of many he was called back as the pass was deemed forward.
Bugbrooke made the most of the let-off and stormed upfield. Once again, the outside three quarters found space and a couple of poor tackle attempts allowed them to score in the corner.
There followed a very frustrating period of play for both sides as they struggled both with the conditions and the interpretation of the breakdown laws. One such offence eventually gave Bugbrooke the chance to increase their lead.
Following one of the countless scrums, Ives were on the point of launching an attack from deep when the back line was judged to have encroached within 5 metres of the scrum. The offside gave the hosts the chance to take an eight-point lead into the final 15 minutes.
There was a little bit of anger in the following plays as the Ives took out the perceived injustice on their opponents. Driving runs by Matt Wood
and Williams gained ground. Ashbridge took the ball at pace and with defenders hanging off him forced his way to the line. Jim Robinson
slotted the only successful conversion of the match to get Ives to within a point.
Bugbrooke were now under extreme pressure and fighting to keep the Bulls at bay.
With time elapsing, Ives had a chance. Again, the slippery ball fell from their grasp and a scrum to the hosts was awarded 15 metres from their own line. The Bulls’ pack tightened its sinews for a huge effort and destroyed the home scrum, marching straight over their opposite numbers. With the ball about to be collected from the back and a penalty expected, the decision was to reset the scrum.
Bugbrooke survived the next set piece and cleared their lines.
Another patient attack by Ives ended when one of their number was penalised for holding on. With time up, Bugbrooke won the following line out and gratefully booted the ball from the park to hold on for the win.
Whilst Bugbrooke were naturally delighted, the Bulls were already looking forward to the new year. Player coach Naylor commented, “We maybe tried to play a bit too much rugby in the conditions. We’ll learn from that and take out our frustrations on the next opponents.” Brown commented, “When the game is so close, one can look at certain moments and wonder what would happen on another day. We’ll take this one on the chin and look to improve for next time.”