Ives come within whisker of victory in annual cup clash at Ely

St Ives Bulls vs Ely Tigers. Picture: Steve Wells

St Ives Bulls vs Ely Tigers. Picture: Steve Wells - Credit: Archant

Rugby Ely 19 St Ives 18

The Percy Walker Cup stayed with holders Ely despite a spirited effort from St Ives on Saturday.

From the kick off, St Ives dominance in the scrum was in evidence.

Ely were driven off their own ball and forced into a foul at the breakdown, with Max Dominy stepping up to slam the resultant penalty through the sticks.

Ely had the chance to respond immediately from the kick-off when awarded their own penalty chance, but the attempt flew wide.

From the resultant drop out, the Ely catcher was challenged in the air. Rather than going for the posts again, Ely nudged the penalty to the corner. Their ambition was rewarded when from the line out, they forced the ball over for a try, with the resulting conversion successful.

St Ives responded well and put the Ely defence under pressure. Ely conceded another breakdown penalty, allowing Dominy to bring the Bulls to within a point.

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The wet conditions were making handling tricky for both sides. The Bulls, aiming to put practice into effect, opted for their own lineout kick following yet another penalty. The following plays were text book. The lineout was taken smoothly, the maul surged forward and the ball released. Half backs Greg Dale and Mickey Drake, who both played well throughout, combined to release the three quarters. With slick passing across the line, Will Nelson was released to score a fine try. Dominy added the extras.

St Ives started the second half on the front foot but failed to convert the pressure into points. With Ely living off scraps of possession, they altered their breakdown approach, isolating St Ives attackers and aiming for quick turnovers. From one such, quick ball transference exposed a shortage of defence out wide and led to a converted try.

As Ely’s changed approached continued to prove successful, a penalty allowed them to go for touch and scored with a clean break from the back of the lineout.

St Ives were not out of the contest, however, and came agonisingly close to winning it late on after Alex Henly dived over in the corner for a try. But, with little time remaining, the conversion slipped wide of the upright.

Skipper Josh Dear said: “We finished the stronger which is a reflection of the conditioning support we have been receiving from Phil Cutts. We blooded two more 17-year-olds, Cullan Smy and Tom Margetts who played well.

“And there are others who will be fighting for places for the first league match against Daventry. We are in a good place to kick off the league season.”