High quality match ends with deserved Ives victory
By Phil Brown
Bulls overcome half time deficit with excellent performance
With Storm Freya expected to provide poor playing conditions, both teams were pleased that only a strong wind greeted them as they served up an epic encounter as first in the division faced third.
Ives had come up just short in the reverse fixture and started with determined defence as the hosts pounded the visitors’ line. Olney’s stand-off was causing the Bulls problems, mixing up the play well. Finally, he sold a sweet dummy and tumbled over the line to score.
The gusty conditions made kicking from the tee very difficult. Even so, there was surprise in the stands as the home kicker rapped the post from in front.
Olney were confident in their attacking play, eschewing a number of potentially kickable penalties to keep the ball in hand. In this phase of the game, the Bulls defence right across the park was outstanding, repelling attack after attack. Chris Williams was ferocious at the breakdown, winning a number of turnovers and penalties to keep Olney at bay. His backrow colleagues Josh Meadows
and Ollie Bartlett
were busy in the tackle count. St. Ives’ big men up front held firm. And when Olney spread the ball wider, Paul Ashbridge
and Alex Henly
were robust in midfield.
Skipper Bartlett took an early breather after a blow to the neck, but the substitution altered nothing as Jack Hickman
threw himself into the fray in his stead.
As the game passed the 30-minute mark, Ives began to make ground against the elements with some powerful runs from Ashbridge, Duncan Williams
and Matt Wood
, amongst others. Olney on the back foot began to offend giving Ives the opportunity to camp on the opposition line.
With the front row of Bradley Robinson
, Tommy Newman
and Josh Dear
bettering their opposition at this stage, numerous penalties were set as scrums by Dear. The home tight head was struggling to stay level, which did not help the Ives as the arbiter simply reset the scrums.
Realising that the scrum was not stable enough to drive over, Ives attacked the fringes. Sucking in the defence, Mickey Drake
threw a fine pass against the grain to Newman, who drew the last man and put Pete Fahey in for a deserved score.
Olney immediately attacked once more. Ives defence held firm until the last minute of the half. The elusive stand off had made a fine break to put the Ives back into their own 22. Only a forward pass prevented a score. Ives lost control of the ball from the next phase but managed to hold up the opposition winger over the line. From the 5-metre scrum, the Olney 8 picked from the base and managed to barge his way over. This time the kicker made no mistake.
Half time 12-5.
The first few minutes of the second half were worrying for St. Ives as a series of penalties gave Olney good field position. The hosts were confident in their lineout and forewent a number of penalty goal attempts again as they sought to press for a try.
Ives defence was again a match for them. Andrew Hutchinson had joined the party and was putting in some thumping tackles. John Paxton
was directing defensive affairs superbly from full back and also adding hits of his own.
Olney could find no way through the Ives defence, even when the visitors were forced to scramble. John Naylor
made some notable interventions, ripping the ball from opposition attackers to thwart their momentum. Chris Williams continued to be an utter nuisance at the breakdown. The hosts’ cause was not helped when their playmaker left the field after a knock.
With the third quarter expiring, Ives rhythm in attack continued to improve. Drake was pulling the strings and the forwards were breaching the gain line as Olney appeared to tire. A loose ball in midfield was snaffled up. The ball was whipped wide to Warwick Brittany
, who sprinted the last yards and grounded the ball airborne just as he was hit. A tremendous finish.
Still trailing by two points after the touchline conversion was missed, Ives were playing with great composure and confidence.
Powerful surges up front again rocked the Olney defence back. A final surge for the line by Wood was stopped as he was held, but he managed an offload to the supporting Naylor who dived over.
The conversion by Ashbridge took Ives 5 points clear with less than ten minutes to play.
Now the Bulls’ game management impressed. Naylor, Drake and Ashbridge pinned their opponents back in their own half with raking kicks. The kick chase was good, and Olney could find no way through.
With time running out, the home full back chose to run from deep. The Ives follow up tackle was spot on, Fahey jackled over the ball and a penalty was awarded. In the still tricky conditions, Ashbridge slotted the chance to take the Bulls two scores clear.
The final minutes were played out in the middle third of the pitch, the Ives giving no quarter as they closed out a deserved and memorable victory, breaking Olney’s unbeaten home run in the process.
Skipper Bartlett was an exhausted, but satisfied man. “That has to be up there with the best performances from this team. Olney are top for a reason, so we are delighted with the way things went. This sets the bar for us for the rest of the season.”