St Ives might have slipped to the bottom of the Midlands Division Three East (South) table last Saturday – but coach Phil Brown clearly hasn’t lost his sense of homour.

His weekly email to the Hunts Post sportsdesk began with the quip: “We must be the strongest team in the league . . . we’re holding 11 others up!”

A 55-15 loss at the hands of a table-topping Oundle side in possession of a 100 per-cent record was no laughing matter though – especially as Brown saw his already lengthy casualty list further swelled.

Brown said: “We were well beaten by the better side, but the fact our spirit has not been broken was important.

“We can also reflect on passages of play that illustrated what will win us games.

“We are suffering from more than our fair share of injuries with four players hurt against Oundle being added to five regulars out with longer-term problems.

“But we always play with what we have available to us and there will be talk about relegation – or promotion for that matter – until we see our status after Christmas.”

An Ollie Bartlett try, converted by Mickey Drake, did briefly put St Ives ahead but they were 23-10 down by the break and then lost Jim Robinson, Nick Gunnell, Tommy Newman and skipper Josh Dear to injuries.

Despite being severely disrupted, and seeing the visitors run in six further tries, St Ives continued to fight manfully and were rewarded with a John Paxton try and a Drake penalty.

They will aim to bounce back when facing an early-season basement battle at Rugby St Andrews this Saturday.

St Neots received a walkover last Saturday after opponents Old Newtonians failed to raise a side.

They now have the task of attempting to stop table-toppers Oundle this Saturday when making the relatively short trip into Northamptonshire.