Conditions take their toll as St Ives lose out in semi-final
- Credit: Archant
St Ives Bulls dreams of national success came to a boggy end on Saturday as they went down 29-7 at Wath upon Dearne in the semi-final of the RFU Senior Vase.
A dogged performance from St Ives saw them match the hosts blow-for-blow in the first half, but home advantage seemed to tell in the latter stages of the clash as Wath thrived in the turgid conditions.
Victory sealed a place in the final, due to take place at Twickenham later in the year, for Wath, while the Bulls turn their attention back to capturing the league crown as they bid to shake off their disappointment.
Skipper Ollie Bartlett said: “I know all the lads are very disappointed with the result. That’s a testament to the ambition we have been showing throughout the season. We came here expecting to win, but Wath played the conditions better than us on the day.
“I am sure there will be a backlash when we come to next weekend, when we can secure the league title by winning at home to Biggleswade.”
Wath had prepared for the heavy conditions and packed their side with big ball carriers up front and in the midfield.
The hosts started as they continued, carrying directly, but were met with resolute Ives defence.
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A penalty was kicked to the corner and pressure mounted on Wath. But Ives came away with nothing as Wath spoiled the lineout and came away with possession. Wath had their tails up and took advantage of two breakdown penalties to establish a six-point lead.
It was then that the Ives superb support game which has been apparent all season came to life. Great handling between forwards and backs saw them gain territory. Wath infringed and set up a lineout maul 20 metres from the home line. The driving maul took them to within five metres. Mickey Drake rifled the ball to Pete Fahey who sliced through the home defence to score by the uprights. Paul Ashbridge added the conversion as Ives moved into the lead.
Wath attacked the Ives half again and gained a penalty which they kicked to the corner.
Wath won the lineout, but tremendous defence of the maul by the Ives pack saw Josh Dear emerge with ball. Disaster struck when the ball fed back for the clearing kick was knocked on behind the line. The home scrum skidded across the mud attempting to ground the ball, but appeared simply to push it on. The referee was in the process of awarding a scrum to the hosts, when the assistant referee intervened and awarded the try from the sidelines. The score was 11-7 at the break.
With the Bulls wanting to play the ball slightly wider despite the conditions, they were met with some smart play by the hosts in the second half. Blitzing the half backs, Wath ensured Ives were unable to break the shackles for long periods.
On Ives’ one foray into the host’s 22, Wath again came away with the ball after turning over a lineout close to their own line. It was to be the last decent chance Ives had as Wath played cannily and starved Ives of possession, notching up a further 18 points as they took the win.
St Ives can clinch the Midlands Division Three East (South) title by beating Biggleswade at Somersham Road this Saturday.
Huntingdon saw their Midlands Division One East clash against Melton Mowbray postponed for the third time last weekend due to flooding at their Racecourse base.
Struggling Stags, who are 12 points from safety with four games to go, visit Oundle this Saturday.
Promoted St Neots can clinch the Midlands Division Four East (South) title for the second time in four seasons this Saturday.
They travel to Brackley for their penultimate fixture. Saints sit seven points clear of closest challengers Bourne, who they beat in their last outing.