Ives wise up and hammer Oakham with superb second half performance
By Phil Brown
Arctic conditions make life tough for both sides
With the temperature hovering just above zero and driving rain throughout, this was a tough day to be a winger, as the shivering Greg Dale and Jonny Young will testify. Playing against the tide in the first half, Ives found it difficult to get a foothold in the game for a long period and Oakham took advantage.
An early penalty success had put the hosts in front before some direct running breached the Bulls’ defence, allowing them to spin the ball wide and score in the right-hand corner.
Oakham were attempting to keep the pressure on by kicking the ball straight downfield. Pete Fahey, in his first game back since his pre-season injury and making his first start at full back, was kept busy and learned quickly that running the ball back was fruitful.
Oakham did not make enough of considerable possession and were slightly fortuitous with their second score. A quickly taken penalty saw Mickey Drake jink his way from his own half to the opposition 22. But, the ball was lost and hoofed downfield by Oakham. The slippery conditions did not help the retreating defence and the ball spilled over the Ives line. The first on hand was an Oakham player who dotted down for a converted try.
Cold hands and an attempt to play a dry weather game in atrocious conditions meant that any decent possession for Ives did not last long as the ball went to ground. However, a series of driving runs saw them reach the opposition 5 metre line just before half time. Oakham were penalised for not releasing. John Naylor
saw his chance and went quickly, jinking past defenders to score a try converted by Paul Ashbridge
An unfortunate injury saw loose-head Dan Hyde
hobble to the changing rooms on the whistle. The Ives will await the prognosis anxiously with more tough games ahead. The front row was juggled with tommy newman
moving to loose-head and Martin Baldwin coming on for his second appearance at hooker. Subsequent events showed the strength in depth that Ives are developing.
Half time 15-7.
Following some warm words shared at the half time break, Ives came out a team transformed. From the restart the game management and decision making was much improved. Alex Henly
demonstrated the desire with some thumping tackles in midfield.
Raking kicks from Naylor, Drake and Ashbridge kept the home side pinned in their own half. Only the inability of frozen players to hold on to the ball prevented scores on numerous occasions.
Keeping the ball much tighter was paying dividends for the Bulls. The Williams’, Duncan and Chris once again enjoyed bashing holes in the home defence.
Patience was finally rewarded. Having pinned Oakham on their own line, Ives scrum led by a superb performance at tight head by Josh Dear
, took the game by the scruff of the neck. A 5-metre scrum was driven directly over the line for Josh Meadows to drop on the ball and score a converted try.
From the kick off, Oakham offended through back chat and Ashbridge stroked the ball over to take the lead for the first time.
Despite the score being close at that point, the Bulls were now rampant. Continuing to drive their opponents back with fine kicks from hands, or well supported running, the pressure ultimately told with a further four unanswered tries.
A penalty was kicked to the 22 metre line for a lineout. A superb maul blew the opposition away. Ashbridge eyeing the try count joined the back and benefited by scoring in the corner.
All roads now led to the try line. Some great cut backs by forwards and backs alike finally led to a gap through which Ashbridge bulldozed his way to the line for his second and the side’s bonus point score. He converted his own try.
Oakham had no answer to the power of the Ives and soon found themselves trundling back over their own line at a scrum for Meadows to score his second.
With a nod to future needs, youngster Bradley Robinson
, who had a fine game in the second row, made way for the returning Sam Pavloskis. Equally young Max Flint
was also on for Henly who had taken a knock.
Ives were quickly back in the Oakham 22. Skipper Ollie Bartlett
found himself in acres of space behind a ruck and chose to sprint round the blind side and straight through the weak home defence to cap a fine personal performance with a try.
Perhaps with an eye on a hot beverage, the referee decided enough was enough and called time on the game following the conversion attempt.
Praising the team’s performance, Phil Brown said post-match, “We tried to play far too much rugby against the conditions in the first half. The try just before half time was important as it demonstrated the way forward. The guys really got their heads together in the second period and I cannot remember a better half of game management. In those conditions, it was an excellent performance.”
For his continuing ability to make a complete nuisance of himself both with and without the ball, the hosts’ sponsors chose Chris Williams as their man-of-the-match.