St Ives passed their sternest test yet to extend a perfect start to their debut Midlands Division Two East (South) season.

The Bulls began the campaign with high-scoring successes against Coalville and local rivals Huntingdon, but they were made to work much harder for success by Long Buckby at Somersham Road last Saturday.

Phil Brown's men eventually prevailed 34-24 against their Northamptonshire opposition after overcoming a deficit of a dozen points.

St Ives conceded two tries early on – one a fine individual effort, the other arriving courtesy of fine support and handling through the visiting side - before finding their feet.

Player-coach Paul Ashbridge dummied a pass and sprinted through to score before sending over the conversion, but the Bulls were grateful for two missed penalties from the visitors before the boot of Ashbridge reduced their arrears to two points – 12-10 – at half-time.

The turnaround was completed impressively in the second half as Josh Dear crashed over close to the posts to complete a move started by a Duncan Williams surge.

That was swiftly followed by a third St Ives try with Josh Meadows the man to touch down after the ball was moved swiftly and slickly through a series of hands.

Ashbridge did the honours with both conversions, but any thoughts of a smooth success were soon dispelled as Long Buckby came roaring back with two tries which sandwiched an Ashbridge penalty.

That left the Bulls only three points clear and they came under frequent and ferocious attack before sealing victory in the dying moments when Jack Blackley's try was converted by Ashbridge.

Skipper Ollie Bartlett said: “This was as stern a test as we have faced for many months and we're really pleased to come through it.

“We didn't start the game as well we we'd have liked to, but we responded well to the pressure we found ourselves under.

“We'll continue to work hard as we know things are not going to get an easier.”

St Ives now go to Market Bosworth this Saturday.

* St Neots suffered a third successive Midlands Division Three East (South) defeat when going down 37-21 to Dunstablians at The Common. They go to Leicester Forest this Saturday.