With no fewer than 10 changes to the side, three positional, including two last minute drop outs, St. Ives once again found themselves travelling with a lot of pre-kick off organisation to do. Peter Ford made his senior debut at 14.
These two teams know each other well and there was clear tension in the air as the excellent referee on the day, Andrew Beckett, commenced proceedings.
There was immediately a sign of things to come. Ives attacked the hosts’ line, but lost possession in the 22. St. Neots had the put in to the scum, but it was as nothing as the Bulls front row, with Michael Wright and Tommy Newman returning, anchored by man-of-the-match skipper Josh Dear, powerfully set off upfield. With the engine room of Ross Thompson and Duncan Williams adding the grunt, Matt Wood cleverly controlled the ball at the base. Following a 15m drive, he dropped onto the ball for the first try of the game.
The tackling by both sides was ferocious for the next 25 minutes as neither side wished to cede any advantage on the gain line. With Ives down to 14 men for 10 minutes, St. Neots applied the pressure, pounding the Ives line. But excellent defence, highlighted by Mickey Drake and Will Mandley in the centre and the entire pack, kept them at bay.
Following a break by Jim Robinson from full back, Ives fought their way back up to the St. Neots 22. Timo Battut at scrum half was having a good game, rifling the ball to stand off Max Dominy, whose game management marshalled his side forward. Once again, the ball was lost close in. Once again, the Bulls simply blew their opponents scrum away against the head. In illegally preventing a second try for No. 8 Wood or flanker Phil Kneeshaw, St. Neots back row transgressed and the referee rightly awarded a penalty try and carded the home No. 8, converted by Dominy.
Using the strong wind advantage to gain territory, St Neots pinned the visitors back again. A lack of concentration by Ives at their lineout gifted the home side the ball and a good rolling maul resulted in a converted try.
Even so, Ives had an opportunity to score just on the break as Greg Dale scooped up possession following another turnover tackle by Mandley. But, the ball did not find its way to the supporting runners and the half finished 7-12 and all to play for.
Turning to enjoy the elements in their favour, the Bulls started strongly. St. Neots could only prevent Ives running through illegally. Unfortunately the strong wind did not aid kicking. Nonetheless, Dominy managed to notch a record of sorts by striking the right and left hand uprights and the crossbar with three separate kicks.
Having weathered the storm, St. Neots gained territory. Ives relaxed and through a series of offences at the breakdown, ceded ground. Good ball transference amongst the host team saw them get from one end to the other and score an unconverted try. 12-12.
From the kick off, an excellent kick chase put the home defence under huge pressure. With Stuart James on in the front row, there was no change to the pattern. The Bulls strode forward in the scrum and Battut completed the move, scoring his first try for the Club. Converted by Dominy.
St. Neots were now falling foul of the whistle at the breakdown. A raking touch find from Dominy following a penalty gave the visitors a lineout 20m out. Distance is no object to this powerful pack and a superbly set rolling maul was marshalled by Bartlett to score the bonus point try.
With Dominy successful from another penalty attempt, Ives stretched 15 points in front with 10 minutes to play. And relaxed again. A poor kick gave St. Neots possession, a series of lapses at the breakdown and some missed tackles in open play encouraged St. Neots who made 80m to score.
Ives redoubled their efforts and might have completed the scoring after a fine break by Drake. The ten point gap was enough for Ives to move off the bottom at the expense of their opponents, having completed the double over them this season.
Both teams retired battered and bruised after a fierce encounter.