St Ives took a step towards Midlands Division Two East (South) safety last Saturday.

Matt Wood, Josh Dear and Duncan Williams were solid in defence for St Ives at Northampton Casuals. Picture: PAUL COXMatt Wood, Josh Dear and Duncan Williams were solid in defence for St Ives at Northampton Casuals. Picture: PAUL COX

The Bulls battled to a low-scoring 5-5 draw at Northampton Casuals in their first outing for more than a month - and the two points gained lifted them out of the drop-zone.

The return of Ollie Raine from a double-wrist fracture, sustained in pre-season, provided a major boost to St Ives, although he immediately suffered a back spasm in the warm-up.

Raine battled through a first half in which Casuals dominated possession and territory, but were unable to find the target with a couple of penalty attempts.

The deadlocked was eventually broken just after the half-hour as a dropped pass invited more pressure on the Bulls.

St Ives captain Ollie Bartlett during the draw with Northampton Casuals. Picture: PAUL COXSt Ives captain Ollie Bartlett during the draw with Northampton Casuals. Picture: PAUL COX

They dealt with the initial scrum, but not the subsequent lineout as Casuals attacked out wide and crossed the line.

The Bulls had to survive more pressure early in the second half before clawing themselves back onto level terms on the hour when a fine run from scrum-half Joseph Cox carried them into the Casuals' 22.

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Once there they benefited from persistent infringing from the hosts and captain Ollie Bartlett drove over following a five-metre lineout.

Neither side could trouble the scorers again with Casuals fluffing a glorious opportunity for a second try due to a dropped pass before Joseph Cox steered a penalty attempt just wide of the post for St Ives.

The Bulls are now a point clear of the bottom two ahead of a home clash against mid-table side Northampton Old Scouts this Saturday.

Rock-bottom St Neots produced one of their best performances of the Midlands Division Three East (South) season last weekend . . . but it wasn't enough to earn a first win.

They certainly ruffled the feathers of fourth-placed visitors Stockwood Park, though, when going down 39-32 at The Common.

Rory Dinegmans, James Larman, Patrick Muldoon and Nick Ashford touched down for tries for Saints with Lewis Hall's boot in fine working order as he successfully sent over two penalties and three of his conversion attempts.

Saints are without a fixture this Saturday but Huntingdon & District are in action at that level when hosting Northampton BBOB in a re-arranged clash at The Racecourse.