RUGBY: St Ives are Midlands marvels as they capture Senior Vase crown for the first time
- Credit: Archant
Their ground is affectionately known as the Chicken Shack – and everyone connected with St Ives Rugby Club had every right to be cock-a-hoop last Saturday.
The ambitious and progressive local club’s best-ever season was given a silver living by a first-ever Midlands Senior Vase triumph.
A dominant display from the Bulls’ pack laid the foundations for a 19-8 triumph against rival table-toppers Long Eaton in the showpiece clash at Somersham Road.
The two sets of league leaders - St Ives are clear in Midlands Division Three East (South) with Long Eaton the top dogs in the North section - served up a contest fitting for such an occasion despite the hindrance of heavy underfoot conditions.
St Ives applied early pressure before falling behind to a penalty, but they soon stretched the Long Eaton defence enough to allow Paul Ashbridge to burst through a gap for the first try.
It was an effort he successfully converted himself and only some last-ditch defensive work denied him and captain Ollie Bartlett further tries as they were both held up over the line.
Ashbridge was again thwarted in similar fashion early in the second half, but there was no stopping Ollie Raine after a superb Bulls scrum sent the visitors careering back past their own line.
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Ashbridge added the conversion before Long Eaton replied with their only following a line-out maul, but the response was impressive with Raine again the beneficiary after the Bulls flexed their muscles with a fine surge.
And that was enough to seal a success that will live long in the memory. Captain Bartlett said: “It’s a just reward for all the hard work the players have put in so far this season. Our aim has always been promotion, but this is something very special for the club.”
The Bulls’ focus switches back to their Midlands Division Three East (South) title bid this Saturday when they travel to Stockwood Park, when victory could - depending on results elsewhere - earn promotion.
Leaders St Neots are already assured of promotion from Midlands Division Four East (South), but they face a crunch title clash against second-placed Bourne at The Common.
Huntingdon continue their Midlands Division One East survival mission when hosting Old Northamptonians at The Racecourse. Their home clash against Melton Mowbray, which was postponed last Saturday, will now take place on March 31.