With the spring apparently arriving, the chicken shack was subject to a keen easterly wind which froze players and spectators alike. Both sides clearly attached importance to the game and were out early practising ready for the kick off. St. Ives started the better, switched on from the start and ready for the battle.
Having nursed a tweak during the week, Paul Ashbridge was risked in the centre. He made the first line break of the game to put Mickey Drake away, but was immediately down with a pulled thigh muscle and played no further part in the match.
The setback galvanised the already pumped up Bulls. Driving play saw them to within 5 metres of the visitors’ line. In a familiar pattern, the pack simply marched their opponents back for Timo Battut to drop on the ball for an early try. Max Dominy converted into the teeth of the wind.
S&L used the wind to pin Ives back in their own half. However, their plan to attack through their big forwards proved fruitless. Some monster hits from man-of-the-match Michael Wright, Duncan Williams and Ollie Bartlett amongst others continually knocked the assailants back behind the gain line.
A relieving penalty was kicked into the opposition 22 by Dominy. From the lineout a series of mauls by the Bulls fractured the S&L defence. Tommy Newman spotted a gap and burst through for a second try.
A slight lapse in concentration followed. Backchat saw a couple of penalties conceded by Ives marched further on and the hosts were under pressure. Unable to clear the ball to touch, they granted possession to the back three. S&L attacked the broken field well, ultimately scoring in the right corner. Given the wind, the S&L kicker slotted a remarkable conversion from the touchline.
S&L gained confidence and began to move the ball wider. From one such, Jack Blackley’s attempt to intercept a potentially try scoring pass resulted in a yellow card for a deliberate knock on. St. Ives were thus down a man as half time approached, but conceded no more points. 12-7.
A poor restart by the Ives allowed S&L’s flanker space to drive deep into home territory. Preventing quick ball led to a penalty which brought the visitors to within 2 points.
There then followed two lengthy stoppages for injury assessment. Phil Kneeshaw and the opposition winger both left the fray, but happily were reported to be fine after assessment. What resulted was a change of pitch so that the game could continue.
With the wind now effectively altered 90 degrees, both sides struggled to adjust their kicking games. The game became scrappy on the heavier surface of the second pitch and as a result a little tetchy.
Fortunately for the Bulls, the concentration returned for a crucial passage of play. Drake broke through in the centre, the forwards were hungry for the ball in support and a 55 metre surge ended with Bartlett crashing over for a deserved score by the posts. Dominy duly converted.
S&L realised they were now no longer even within bonus point reach. Which made their decision to go for touch when having penalties in front of the posts rather strange.
One such penalty was for a second deliberate knock on by Blackley. His second yellow turned red and Ives faced the last quarter with 14 men. Fortunately for them, the visiting No. 8 lost his cool and was invited to join Blackley on the sidelines for 10 minutes.
S&L threw all they had at the Bulls, but the defence was superb. Luke Myers was also stealing the opposition lineout and willing to pounce on loose ball when needed.
At the final whistle, apart from delight at the victory, the overriding emotion for the Bulls was frustration. Having played so well for the first 20 minutes, all the players recognised that the only a dip in concentration would allow the visitors back into the game. The weather played a part in that, so it is to the credit of the team that they switched back on when it was needed in the last 20.