RUGBY: Vital success for St Ives marred by loss of skipper to injury
- Credit: Archant
St Ives collected a vital victory in their Midlands Division Two East (South) survival battle last Saturday . . . but it was marred by a major injury blow.
The Bulls produced a fine second-half fightback to overcome fellow strugglers Melton Mowbray 26-12 at Somersham Road to climb out of the drop-zone - sending their victims into the bottom two in their place.
But a third win of a tough campaign came at a cost as St Ives lost influential captain Ollie Bartlett to a broken hand which will lead to lengthy spell out.
Director of rugby, Phil Brown, said: "The most important thing is that the guys have been enjoying their rugby again since the turn of the year.
"When they do that, the team stays positive and the right performances follow.
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"That's the attitude we'll need to retain for the rest of the season as we still have a lot of work to do to stay up.
"We could definitely do with some better luck on the injury front as well after losing Ollie and we all wish him a speedy recovery."
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St Ives fell behind early on when Melton touched down in the corner after stealing the ball from a lineout with covering defender John Paxton unable to accelerate due to a tweaked hamstring which forced him out of the action.
But the hosts were soon on the front foot as they set up camp in the Melton 22 for eight uninterrupted minutes and forced the visitors to concede numerous penalties without being able to break through.
However, after hammering on their opponents' door to no avail, they then found their own defence unlocked as a converted try handed Melton a 12-point cushion at the break.
A quick response was crucial in the second half and it was provided by Paul Ashbridge, who crashed over to score following fine work from Mickey Drake and then converted his own try.
Ashbridge also played a pivotal role in the score that brought the Bulls level with his classy kick to the corner earning the lineout from which the pack muscled over with Duncan Williams touching down under a mass of bodies.
St Ives then had to survive an onslaught as Melton attempted to move back into the ascendency to no avail.
And Ashbridge was again prominently involved as the Bulls completed the turnaround. He produced a fine burst from a 22-metre dropout before unselfishly giving Ben Fleming the simplest of tries.
Ashbridge successfully steered over the conversion but St Ives' momentum was temporarily checked by the loss of Bartlett following an innocuous collision.
But the Bulls shrugged off that blow to seal victory with a fourth try in the dying moments as player-coach John Naylor pounced on a loose Melton pass which had laid to rest close to the posts and Ashbridge's trusty boot added the extras.
Next up for St Ives is a trip to mid-table Northampton Casuals this Saturday.