St. Ives Old Bulls down local rivals to win the Golden Boot (but where was it?)
Back to back victories leave opponents playing for the wooden spoon
Whether it was for a 90 second pre-calf strain cameo or for 80 minutes of blood and thunder, there were proud Bulls across the Meadow as St. Ives first downed hosts St. Neots, then staggered Huntingdon to win the Golden Boot.
On a bright, windy day, St. Neots were clearly up for the event. Their entire squad was out warming up and practising moves 30 minutes before any opponents had turned up to get changed.
St. Neots 19, St. Ives 21
St. Ives skipper Duncan Williams was determined to treat exercise as a team outing, and all players got a half in the first match. Except for the unfortunate Beni Giglio. Having been the anchor for the first resounding drive at a scrum, he pulled up clutching his not-insubstantial calf and limped off.
The match was a very even affair. St. Neots had the edge in the set pieces and used it to their advantage. Driving St. Ives off their own ball close in, the ball was picked from the base and swept left for a score in the corner.
After some vigorous exchanges, St. Ives finally made a break from their own 22. Jim Robinson cleaved through the home defence. A great run by Stuart Potski, supported by the ever present Nick Gunnell took the play to the home 22, where Williams was on hand to crash over. Robinson converted.
St. Neots struck back. Again stealing set piece possession at a lineout, a couple of tired tackles allowed the attack straight through for a converted try.
Half time 12-7.
The second half was a tense affair and scoreless until late. Williams made another fine break, but he was felled just short and the pass went astray.
St. Neots had a penalty directly in front, which would have put them 8 points and two scores clear. Inexplicably, but to the relief of the on looking Bulls support, the attempt drifted wide.
The let-off energised St. Ives. From the restart, they carried well from 22 to 22 through a good carry by Tim Lumley-Good and a break by Dexter Mallard. The try under the posts was converted by Robinson.
Tired legs were in evidence as St. Neots regathered possession and scored immediately from the restart. Converting the try left them 5 in front with a minute to play. St. Ives were not done. The hosts attempted to close the game out by smothering the ball. The penalties mounted up. Quick taps were taken. Another break by Mallard took the game upfield. Robinson darted through a gap and released Gunnell in support. Andy Oliver kept his width and received the try scoring pass. In the corner.
The tension was everywhere except the mind of Robinson. With the clock red, the match tied and the wind howling, he calmly slotted the conversion from out wide to secure victory.
St. Ives 19, Huntingdon 0
Having arrived late, Huntingdon were to leave early, though nobody really noticed, after their swagger was halted by a fine Ives performance.
With a quick turn round between games, Ives started as they had finished and scored superbly. Good possession up front gave Mallard then Robinson space to run. The ball was spread wide to the overlapping Mark Smy who dotted down. With his only miss of the afternoon, Robinson struck the post with a difficult conversion attempt from the right touchline.
Huntingdon came back at the Ives, but the Bulls scented glory and the defence was sound, with Rob Olivier and Adam Scott prominent. Huntingdon’s frustration was mounting and a penalty conceded when on the attack. Gunnell was quick to release Mallard who made 70 metres before being caught, but managed to release the ball which found its way to Russell Warrington who scored a converted try.
With the score against them, Stags decided to try other tactics to the bemusement of all in attendance. Injudicious use of the boot and fist went unnoticed by the whistle carrier, but raised the temperature on the field. The Stags’ second row was carded for punching, with Graham Moffitt also sent to the side for allowing his face to be in the way.
Ives focus on the game was superior. From the penalty restart, they burst upfield and after fine continuity Williams was again on hand to score a converted try.
Half time 19-0.
The second half was one of few chances. The only clear try scoring opportunity fell to the Ives, but the final pass was deemed forward.
Huntingdon continued their abrasive tactics, but were shown the way back. The rested second rower received the ball in space. Rather than release his backs with an overlap, he searched for the position of Moffitt and charged towards him. Williams spotted the line taken and chose to stop the onrushing Stag dead in his tracks and some. The cheer that went from the St. Neots support was even louder than that from the Bulls’ support.
The referee had also tired, as he was content to decline any opportunity for advantage. The game therefore fizzled out with series of scrums.
On the final whistle, the pitch was invaded by the travelling support to hail their heroes.
St. Neots 19, Huntingdon 10
The Bulls players and crowd sportingly stayed to watch the dead rubber of the tournament and chose to support the hosts. They were delighted to see St. Neots come out on top in a close game. It seemed that quite a few players had come to chat and not play as the prominent activity of the match seemed to be the marching back of one side by the irritated referee.
Nonetheless, St, Neots kept their cool and ran out victors three tries to two. They were left to rue the missed penalty in front versus the Bulls and dream of what might have been.
So, where was the Golden Boot?
With dozens of players and supports awaiting the opportunity to cheer Williams lifting the Golden Boot, there was confusion.
The hosts knew nothing of its whereabouts.
The previous holders were left red-faced as they admitted they had forgotten to bring it with them. A charitable view acknowledges that older people’s memories do fail on occasion, so the Bulls will look forward to a gracious presentation from the previous holders in the near future.
Williams was delighted. “Even without the trophy, we’ll celebrate well into the night. Apparent differences in league status were blown away with a great team effort by our men.”