RUGBY: Super St Ives streak is over but late rally ensures their unbeaten record stays intact

Ollie Raine scored St Ives' late try in their draw at title rivals Northampton Casuals. Picture: PAU

Ollie Raine scored St Ives' late try in their draw at title rivals Northampton Casuals. Picture: PAUL COX - Credit: Archant

The end of a stunning winning streak could be seen as a reason for disappointment, but satisfaction at a battling draw against another set of promotion hopefuls was the over-riding emotion for St Ives last Saturday.

The table-topping Bulls saw their brilliant run of 18 victories in all competitions brought to a halt in a crunch Midlands Division Three East (South) clash at Northampton Casuals.

But a late comeback, featuring an Ollie Raine try and Paul Ashbridge conversion after they had soaked up torrents of pressure, earned a highly creditable 10-10 deadlock and ensured they emerged from a stern test in difficult conditions with their proud unbeaten record still intact.

Player-coach John Naylor was quick to praise both the resolve shown by the Bulls in the closing stages of the contest and the overall display of their hosts.

He said: “We did really well to get ourselves level and felt that we could even have taken the game at the end.

“We can learn a lot from the way Casuals played in the conditions, but we also showed how good we are when sticking to our script as we did towards the end of the game.”

The boot of Ashbridge made no mistake with a penalty to hand St Ives an early advantage, but another of their attacking raids then led to a converted try for Casuals.

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A mis-placed St Ives pass was snaffled by the hosts before a kick over the top was followed by a kind bounce and a try close to the posts with the resulting conversion being successful.

Casuals maintained a 7-3 advantage until the final five minutes when a penalty extended the cushion to seven points and left St Ives facing up to a first defeat of the season.

But that’s not a prospect the Bulls were prepared to entertain. Instead they went on an attack triggered by a jinking Jack Blackley run from kick-off.

Naylor then darted down the blind side before Ollie Raine arrived in support to collect a pass and touch down.

Ashbridge coolly guided over the conversion to restore parity and St Ives then launched a late charge for victory which was halted by a match-ending knock on.

The Bulls entertain another Northampton side, second-bottom Men’s Own, this Saturday at Somersham Road, 2.15pm.