Paul Ashbridge made no mistake with a crucial penalty to send St Ives to the top of Midlands Division Three East (South) standings last Saturday.

The Bulls beat fellow perfect starters Northampton Casuals 20-17 in a crunch Somersham Road showdown settled by Ashbridge's boot.

Man-of-the-match Duncan Williams also contributed two important tries on an afternoon when his side wiped out a 12-point first-half deficit to pass their toughest test yet.

Lead St Ives player-coach John Naylor said: "We knew that it was going to be a tough game against another unbeaten side. We started quite slowly, but steadily grew into the game and gained confidence in the process.

"We probably should have put the game to bed when having a lot of possession in the second half, but we made a few too many mistakes. Luckily Paul had his kicking boots on to get us the win in the end."

The visitors claimed the opening two tries - the first of them also being converted - to build a useful lead, but St Ives soon rose to the occasion.

They hit back immediately as Oliver Raine collected Mickey Drake's kick-off and burst forward. After had was hauled down, the ball was cycled through the backs for wideman Albiee Tayedzerwa to touch down in the corner.

Ashbridge couldn't add the extras on that occasion, but he didn't have any trouble with the boot after man-of-the-match Williams went over for another score following a powerful drive from the Bulls' pack.

And the same man completed a fine turnaround in the second period when going over after another fine effort whioch stemmed from an expert line-out delivery by Adam Scott.

Casuals responded when taking advantage of back-to-back penalties following St Ives indiscretions to level, but it didn't stay that way for long as Ashbridge steered over a vital penalty to earn his side victory.

St Ives face Northampton opposition again this Saturday as they travel to take on the Men's Own club. It is another clash of two teams boasting 100 per cent records, although their hosts' is one of an unwanted variety after losing all four league games to date.

Naylor added: "We haven't won at Men's Own in the past two years and that's something we want to address. We certainly can't afford to allow any complacency to creep in."

St Ives youngster Joseph Cox has been selected to play for Cambs Under 17s against Suffolk tonight (Wednesday). He is the skipper of the Bulls' side in that age group.