Highly motivated hosts take the spoils
By Phil Brown
Ives wake up a little too late
After a brilliant performance the week before, there was disappointment amongst the Bulls as they started the match flat and were knocked back on their heels by a highly motivated Vipers side fighting to avoid relegation.
The game was played in a very strong wind, which made handling difficult. There were numerous errors in the opening minutes by both teams as they got to grips with the gale.
Ives opened the scoring somewhat against the run of play when Vipers strayed offside and Paul Ashbridge
converted the penalty attempt.
The home side were throwing bodies into the breakdown and also spoiling Ives possession well on the floor.
A daft penalty concession after a chip through by the Vipers winger led to a lineout close to the Ives line. Vipers pounded the blue line for a full 2 ½ minutes before they finally found a gap and went over for an unconverted try.
There was no further score for 25 minutes, but Vipers had chances. But for the strong defence of Ashbridge in midfield and in particular the scrambling cover of skipper Ollie Bartlett
, Ives could have fallen further behind.
With half time approaching, a no arms tackle led to a penalty in front for the hosts who took the opportunity to finish the half 8-3 up.
There was more trouble for the Bulls as totemic Duncan Williams
withdrew from the action with an injury.
Whilst the score was very close, Ives realised they had to up the ante to get a foothold in the game. Unfortunately, it was Vipers who started the second period the stronger. A scrum in midfield was following by a series of forward surges, before the ball was released wide for a score in the corner. The kicker slotted a fine conversion in the conditions.
This sparked a response from St. Ives.
Having managed the breakdown much better than Ives to date, Vipers began to offend. A quickly taken penalty by John Naylor
saw him dart through the retreating defence and release Ben Fleming
on the wing. Fleming’s fixing of the last man and pass inside to the supporting Bartlett was top drawer. Ashbridge added the extras.
Vipers were galvanised into action and began direct running. Despite the efforts of their replacements, injuries to Josh Meadows
and John Paxton
reduced the firepower of the Bulls and the hosts took advantage. Driving action up front after a penalty lineout, saw them to the line, but unable to ground the ball. From the subsequent scrum, the ball was moved wide for the centre to crash over.
More pressure by the home side led to another score for Vipers out wide.
With the game apparently beyond them, Ives started to play with the accuracy that had deserted them to this point. Interplay between forwards and backs mounted sustained pressure on the home defence, which finally cracked for Ashbridge to nip through under the posts.
With only two minutes remaining, the Bulls pounded the opposition line in search of a bonus point score, but a last misplaced ball led to a turnover and Vipers gleefully cleared the ball to touch.
Skipper Bartlett spoke after the game. “There was clearly one team that wanted it more than the other today. We didn’t bring anywhere near the intensity to this match as needed. We’ll have a beer, brush ourselves down and look forward to the next match in two weeks.”