Following another splendid lunch hosted by Club President Andy Frear, the supporting crowd was able to feast on a try bonanza at the Chicken Shack. With underfoot conditions decidedly firm, the stage was set for a high tempo encounter.
From the kick off receipt, Ives ran the ball well and reached the opposition 22. A breakdown error gifted possession back to Bugbrooke, but Ives kept them penned close to the try line. With Ollie Raine leaping to steal a lineout ball, patient play ultimately saw a gap open for Paul Ashbridge who put the supporting Josh Dear in to open the scoring.
Bugbrooke struck back immediately. A poor exit by the Bulls gave the ball to the visitors who whipped it wide to score in the corner.
The helter skelter nature of the first half continued as Ives struck twice in quick succession. First, Ashbridge put Pete Fahey in for a try in the corner. Immediately from the kick off, Ollies Raine and Bartlett combined to shatter the Bugbrooke defence. The ball went wide for Fin Ruddock to go over unopposed for his first 1st XV try.
The first quarter had not expired when the fifth try of the match was scored. Poor discipline by the Ives and even poorer defence gave Bugbrooke field position. Playing the game at a high pace, they ran through to score.
The Bulls were demonstrating great attacking penetration in multiple phases with breaks across the field by Raine, Bartlett, Ashbridge, Alex Henly and John Paxton. Superb scrambling defence by the Bugbrooke 13 and full back must be lauded as they kept the line intact for some minutes.
A raking kick by Mickey Drake put Bugbrooke under pressure again with a lineout on their own 5 metre line. A knock on gave the Ives a scrum close in. The front row of young and old, Bradley Robinson, Adam Scott making his first appearance of the season and anchor Dear demolished their opposite numbers. The Ollies competed to be the pushover try scorer, it being skipper Bartlett who claimed the prize.
Whether it was achieving the try bonus point after less than half an hour, or something else, Ives switched off again for a few minutes. Ives having stormed upfield, Bugbrooke took a quick lineout deep in their own 22. Disorganised defence allowed their backs to charge down to the other end of the paddock, a penalty infringement the only way to prevent a length of the field score. Bugbrooke kicked the penalty to the corner for a lineout. Crashing through the Ives defence brought the third try for the visitors.
With half time approaching, the Bulls kept ball in hand and attacked once more. Ben Fleming made yards up the wing, interplay between forward and backs gained field position. The ball was then swept right where Alex Henly demonstrated exactly why one should run at defenders with the ball in two hands. With Fahey dragging his opposite man wide, Henly was able to bemuse the last man and ran around under the posts for a fine try.
With a couple of conversions to each side, the half time score was 29-19.
While the crowd was enjoying an entertaining contest, the onlooking coaching staff were both delighted and irritated. Targets were to continue the excellent attacking shapes but tighten up defensively. Stuart James was introduced at loosehead.
The second half started well for the visitors. Returning the kick off deep into Ives territory, the hosts fluffed the lineout possession and granted Bugbrooke an attacking scrum. A neat training ground move saw the left wing slice through for the try bonus point score, bringing the match to within three points after the conversion.
From this point on, things improved dramatically in the home side’s performance. Tackles were being made, with Matt Wood smashing people down and Jack Hickman getting round the ankles. Loose ball was pounced on by the evergreen Scott and skipper Bartlett. And possession came as a result.
Another break downfield was stopped just short of the line by Bugbrooke’s scrambling defence, but illegally. Opting for the scrum, Ives once again pulverised the opposition pack. As the hosts platform disintegrated, the arbiter had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try.
Ives were now playing with pace and good support lines. Pressure through the scrum turned over a Bugbrooke put in. Patient play kept the ball alive until Wood was able to crash through the last line of defence and score under the posts.
Soon after, another surging attack saw Ives maintain possession well. With John Naylor snapping around the breakdown to maintain the momentum, he put Ashbridge through a gap to complete another fine try.
Entering the final quarter, Joe Cox was introduced on the wing. Bugbrooke were continuing to press for their own scores, but the immensely improved second half defence of the Ives offered no quarter. The ball was finally knocked on and snaffled by Raine. Paxton was first to the breakdown and a lovely pass behind the defender released Cox. With his first touch, Cox sprinted from his own half, chipped the full back, collected the ball and beat the last defender to score a tremendous individual try.
Things were coming undone for Bugbrooke. The kick off did not go ten metres, Ives electing for a scrum. Raine picked from the base and set off downfield. Supporting runners kept the defence guessing and Raine was able to dummy and jink his way to the posts.
With the clock running down and all thinking of the post-match celebrations, Bugbrooke collected themselves a deserved consolation score after running the ball wide and touching down just by the corner flag. In keeping with the 100% record of both kickers in the second half, the conversion was slotted from the touchline.
With one game of the league season to go, the Bulls were a very happy bunch after the game having cemented third position in their first season at this level, a great achievement.