Bulls start the new year with a bang
Second half performance delights the large crowd in a match of 12 tries
A splendid lunch attended by luminaries from both clubs preceded an equally splendid game for the hosts. The pitch was looking in great nick sporting its new livery, for which thanks go to sponsors NKT Financial Solutions and Mick George for the posts and scoreboard respectively.
As was to be expected, the game between the local rivals was a tense, cagey affair in the opening exchanges. Both sides were determined to stifle opposition attacks. Both sides had chances out wide, but the ball was held close and they went begging.
Bar one penalty from the dependable boot of Paul Ashbridge
, there was no threat to either try line until the 25th minute. This despite Stags playing with 14 men for ten minutes after skipper Roger Shakespeare had been carded for a tackle offence.
It was finally the Bulls who trusted their hands enough to break the deadlock. The bane of the oppositions’ lives Duncan Williams
smashed through the Stags defensive line. The ball went through multiple hands and finally found Josh Meadows
who dotted down to score.
On the half hour, Ives were applying pressure. Stags were penalised in front. Having gained the ascendancy in the set piece, the Bulls chose to scrummage. A delightful back row move saw John Naylor
put skipper Ollie Bartlett
through to score.
The Ives were beginning to enjoy themselves and started to move the ball better. A slick set of hands released Will Nelson
who sprinted to within a metre of the try line. Desperate defence kept him out during which Nelson suffered an injury ending his part in the match.
From a scrum restart 5 metres out, Stags were ferociously driven off their own ball and marched back to their line for Ollie Raine
to dot down for the Bulls.
With Ashbridge having added all the conversions, the scoreboard glowed 24-0 in the gloom.
From the kick off, Raine was taken out in the air and somewhat fortunate not to suffer injury. The offending player was shown yellow.
Being a man down again galvanised the visitors into action. They kicked well for territory and pounded the Ives line. Three penalties were conceded close in. Thrice Stags went to the corner and a lineout. Finally, they breached the Ives defence and opened their account on the stroke of half time.
Half time 24-7.
Again, Ives could not make the extra man count for the sin bin period. Again, as soon as the player returned, the Bulls stepped up a gear to score.
Having attacked the Stags’ line, the ball was lost forward. The now totally dominant Bulls pack anchored by props Josh Dear
and Tommy Newman
, shunted their opposition off their own ball. Quickly recycled ball saw Bartlett over for his second and the team’s bonus point try.
Almost immediately followed one of the tries of the match. Well protected primary possession was whipped wide by Mickey Drake
and Ashbridge, with Alex Henly
running a tremendous line through the visiting defence. Sprinting fully 50 metres, he superbly drew the full back wide and popped the ball back to the supporting Pete Fahey who scored under the posts.
With the game effectively over, Huntingdon summoned great spirit to launch their own series of attacks, keeping the Ives penned on their own line. The hosts could only prevent a score via a series of offences. Having received a team warning, Martin Baldwin
suffered for being offside and took ten minutes on the touchline. Stags were able to make the extra man count and scored immediately from the resultant lineout.
The next 8 minutes saw the Ives play some of the best attacking rugby. Despite being a man short, they ran the ball with great purpose and support from all angles.
From a lineout, a training ground move saw the defence part like the Red Sea allowing Duncan Williams
to crash through for a score.
With the ball being spun back and forth, patience was again rewarded when Newman picked the ball up off his toes to complete a superb team try.
And after another series of defence splitting runs, Drake was the man to dash through and score.
Baldwin was keen to make amends for his misdemeanour and busied himself with ball in hand on his return. The Ives pack battered the line, Baldwin finally arcing to score close to the posts. Ashbridge’s fine day continued as he added his eighth conversion.
With the game done and dusted, the Ives defence could perhaps be forgiven for relaxing as the time elapsed. With the clock in the red, some good driving runs of their own gave the visitors the final word as they scored in the left hand corner.
Skipper Bartlett was a very happy man after the game. “That was a great performance to start the second half of the season and backed up the excellent training effort the lads put in during the week. If we want to succeed, we’ll need to forget this and do the same to prepare for the next fixture. After a few beers to celebrate this evening, of course.”