Vipers crushed with another tremendous second half performance by the Bulls
By Phil Brown
Some great team tries witnessed
Having had a rest weekend to put the previous reverse against league leaders Olney behind them, this St. Ives victory was built as much on excellent defence as attacking prowess.
In bright conditions, the Bulls started uphill, unusually with the wind, which was a cold easterly. Vipers gathered the kick off and cleared downfield. Ives immediately counter-attacked and after a series of play, Ollie Raine
received the ball wide out on the right. With the defence at sixes and sevens, he darted between two of the opposition to score.
Almost immediately, Ives were on the attack again and forced a penalty. Paul Ashbridge
stepped up to convert in difficult kicking conditions.
Having shaken the journey out of their legs, Vipers began to attack. The Bulls defence was resolute, however, and the visitors could find no way through.
Recovering good possession, Ives applied pressure, kicking a penalty to the corner. From the lineout, a series of phases split the Vipers’ defence and Chris Williams ran through the gap to score, converted by Ashbridge.
15 points behind with only a quarter of an hour gone, Vipers were stung into action and began to batter the Ives defence again. For almost the remainder of the half, the visitors were in the ascendancy territorially, but could not make it count.
In particular, a series of lineout mauls close to the Ives’ line brought no reward as tremendous counter mauling by the Bulls’ pack successfully drove Vipers back time and again.
With the half closing, Ives broke the siege and swept upfield. Good interplay between forwards and backs saw Chris Williams eventually be the man to profit, breaking through a tackle to surge to the line. Ashbridge converted to make the half time score 22-0.
The second half saw the Bulls step up a gear. Immediately, one of the tries of the game came from driving play and fast recycling across the blue ranks, creating a gap through which Raine charged. Taking the last man out, the ball was slipped to Josh Meadows who outsprinted the remaining defence to score under the posts. The bonus point try was converted.
Vipers refused to lie down, or stay quiet, and some moments of indiscipline by the Bulls gave them some opportunities to attack. Still no quarter was being given by Ives in defence.
As the final quarter approached, the floodgates opened.
First, some excellent direct running by debutant Jack Hickman
and Raine gained many yards. The ball was spun to Mitch Newman who put Meadows away to score wide out one the left, for his second.
From the kick off, Raine started the counter, ably supported with driving runs down the centre of the park by Josh Dear
and Duncan Williams
. The ball was spun wide and, for the first time in many matches, Albiee Tayedzerwa was able to confront his opposite number in space. It was no contest as Tayedzerwa skipped round him, put on the after-burners and finished off another very fine team try.
Vipers continued to offer resistance, but were not helped when the centre was carded for a high shot. From the penalty, Ives put in at a line out just outside the 22. With Newman’s throwing again hitting his skipper Ollie Bartlett
, the ball was dropped down to Duncan Williams
. Williams clearly decided he was up for a challenge and made a bee-line for the try line. No attempt was strong enough to prevent him touching down. Converted.
The Ives were somewhat disrupted with changes as blood injuries, dead legs and a yellow for Chris Williams caused the unusual sight of John Naylor
stepping up to hook, a position he had not occupied for some years. It gave the opportunity for youngster Finlay Ruddock
to make a short debut cameo on the flank.
The disruption did not stem the tide. Mickey Drake, who had a fine if somewhat noisy return to the Ives ranks, chipped ahead. Whilst he considered the impediment to his line worth a penalty, the eyes of all others were on the bouncing ball. Quickest to react was Peter Fahey
, who caught the high bounce and fended off the last man to score under the posts. Again, converted by Ashbridge.
With the clock ticking into the red, Vipers resilience was finally rewarded when they managed to retain possession for a series of drives and scored, an effort which was duly converted.
The team was in an interesting place after such an emphatic victory. Immediately following the game, MoM Raine summed things up nicely. “Here we are discussing what we could have done better, but we faced Vipers three times last season and all the matches were very close. Today we have blown them away, which shows how far we have developed.”
The Bulls turn their attention to the Hunts and Peterborough Cup next week, travelling to Peterborough for the first round.