A freak incident at the start of the second half saw Ollie Raine bowled over. Using both hands to break his fall, his extreme discomfort was explained after a visit to A&E. Not only had he broken one wrist, he had fractured the other arm, too. With both arms plastered, he will be frustrated to miss the start of the new campaign having worked so hard in pre-season. Everybody wishes him well for a speedy recovery.
The news naturally took the gloss off what was a good day out for the Bulls. They started at a gallop with skipper Ollie Bartlett setting the standard by soaring to retrieve Mickey Drake’s kick off. Bartlett’s pressure on the Ely 10 then led to a 22 metre drop out. Chris Williams beat the first defenders; the ball was whipped out by John Naylor before Alex Henly released Warwick Brittany down the wing. With little space, he sped past two tackles to score. Max Dominy stepped up to convert.
Playing with the strong wind, the Bulls applied pressure again. From a well-set line out maul, they progressed into Ely’s 22. On receiving the ball Henly took route one. Despite the attentions of numerous Ely players, Henly would not be felled and used his power to reach the try line. Converted.
Ely then tested the Bulls’ defence for 15 minutes but could find no way through. Finally, from a relieving kick, Ives found themselves back in opposition territory. From an Ely scrum, Ely lost the ball and the ubiquitous Naylor grubbered the ball through, collected and grounded for a fine opportunist score, also converted.
Despite the scoreline, Ely were spending much time in Ives territory against the elements, but could not unlock the home defence.
Another relieving kick by Ives gave Ely a lineout. Once again, it was Ives’ defensive pressure that forced an error as the visiting centre offered the ball up for Henly to intercept. This time demonstrating his pace, Henly pinned his ears back and ran in to the corner.
The remainder of the half saw Ives again in their own 22, but the half finished 26-0.
With the second period barely a minute old, Ives ran the ball for the best of their tries. Taking up from where it left off last season, a solid scrum secured great ball. Drake, Dominy and Henly combined to release Brittany in space. He jinked his way past all comers to score a converted try under the posts.
It was following the kick off that an innocuous looking tackle caused Raine’s injuries.
The next 20 minutes saw a bit of a forwards’-fest as both sides were unable to capitalise on half chances and scrums and lineouts were in abundance.
From a scrum, Naylor’s long pass found its way to Will Nelson who made ground, supported by Callum Long. Nelson took the return pass and a wicked offload to the indefatigable Naylor saw the latter into the corner.
With time running out, Ives discipline deserted them as Ely attacked. After a series of penalties, Ely finally space out wide to score in the corner. The kicker managed a fine conversion.
The remainder of the game was played out in unexpected rain, neither side adding to their tally.
Coach Naylor was pleased with the performance. “There were some really good things displayed today in both attack and defence. We do need to tighten up in some areas as other sides will take advantage of some of our lapses. Overall, we are in a good place.”
The clubs’ second XVs also played at the Chicken Shack. Until the injuries to 1st XV players robbed them of some of their key men, Ives were a couple of scores in front. Following various reshuffles, including various Ives men competing as Ely’s front row to ensure contested scrums for the entire match, Ely came back into it and won 24-43. The Bulls tries were scored by Brandon McDonald, Bradley Robinson, Joe Cox and the returning Freddie Clark. By all accounts the latter had an outstanding outing. Cox converted two of the tries.
Next week sees the final pre-season squad match (billed as 2nds), when Ives host Cottenham Renegades.