Hard fought and competitive match sees the Bulls come out on top
By Phil Brown
Fine victory built on great defence
The scoreline belies a highly competitive match between the third and fourth placed sides pre-kick off. The match started in gloomy dank conditions with Ives playing uphill and into a very strong wind.
From the off, the Ives put a very good sequence of phases together to exit their 22 and reach the half way line. Unfortunately, in the process the returning Mickey Drake took a heavy tackle and was to take no further part in the game.
Ives reshuffled the back line with Greg Dale moving to scrum half, John Naylor
replacing the playmaker at 10 and Mitch Newman taking the wing position. Despite the disruption the Bulls started the better.
Belgrave’s defence was sound close in as they were confronted with bulldozing runs by Duncan Williams
, Josh Dear
and Matt Wood
. Moving the ball a little wider enabled Paul Ashbridge
to break the line and surge upfield. Belgrave conceded a series of penalties and Ives worked the lineout well through tommy newman
, Josh Meadows and Ollie Raine
Ultimately, Ives gained the put in at a 5-metre scrum, driving their opponents back over the line for Raine to dot down.
Belgrave then used the wind well in pinning Ives back in their 22. A penalty was kicked to the corner. The first attack was held up, but a further penalty concession left Ives under pressure. From the following line out Belgrave managed to reach the line to open their account.
Ives were lifted by more surging runs upfield by Ashbridge. Whilst the hosts were disappointed at not being able to maintain possession, the confidence of the entire team was lifted.
Once again, finding no way past the tremendous Ives defence across the park, Belgrave gained territory with the boot. Regaining possession close in a Belgrave player surged for the line and was deemed to have touched down.
There was still time in the half for Chris Williams to demonstrate his twinkling feet and acceleration as he picked from the base of a ruck and leaving defenders in his wake charged upfield. Tackled only a few metres from the line, Ives could not recycle possession and the opportunity had passed.
Nonetheless, turning round at 5-10 gave the Bulls quiet confidence and appeared to deflate the visitors at the start of the second period.Martin Baldwin
took the field for the second half, replacing Bradley Robinson
who continued his senior development by fronting up well against a much more experienced tight head.
Early in the half, Ashbridge placed a kick right into the corner. Belgrave knocked on possession from the lineout gifting Ives an attacking scrum. Raine picked from the base and waltzed through the 10 channel to score.
Bulls were playing with momentum behind them and strong defence pressurised Belgrave into errors. A turnover in midfield by Pete Fahey saw Ives sweep downfield with Raine achieving his hattrick after receiving the ball with nobody to beat.
With still 30 minutes to play, Ives thought they had completed formalities when Duncan Williams
received the ball in midfield after another lineout steal by Raine. In no mood to halt his own progress, Williams bounced off numerous defenders to score by the posts.
With the try bonus point secured, Ives then faced a valiant fightback by the visitors. The wind had not subsided and Belgrave were attacking with ball in hand. Twice they got over the Ives line but could not score. The first time the ball was held up. The second was knocked on after a last-ditch tackle by Ives. Chris Williams too a knock in the process and was replaced by Jack Hickman
Ashbridge’s boot was sending Belgrave back from whence they had come. However, a couple of minutes ill-discipline saw Ives concede four penalties in a row. The Belgrave forwards took the opportunity to finally get over the line for a deserved try.
With time running out, Belgrave frustrated the visiting coach by kicking away what possession they did have. Receiving the ball from winger Rick Peters
, Ben Fleming
ran the ball back to midfield. Fahey broke the first line of defence. A series of phases and fine handling between forwards and backs saw the ball finally reach Fahey again wide out and he gleefully rounded the last defence to complete a splendid team try.
The gap in the scoreline was extended at the death by Ashbridge kicking his fourth conversion from five, compared to his opposite number who managed none in the testing windy conditions.
With one more game before Christmas, Ives were a satisfied bunch after the game. The game was a tough test, played in good spirit but with no quarter spared by either side. The wind meant that attempts to play wide by both sides often foundered. Despite that it was a highly entertaining spectacle and a great performance by the hosts, particularly in defence.
Flanker Meadows spoke for the team, “This is a special group of players. We had a great run last season and after coming through a stern test like that we can start to believe we can do something special again. It will be hard work and we know we can get better, but we’re looking forward to testing ourselves against another unknown quantity in Bugbrooke next week.”