The Bulls beat Leicester side Vipers who arrived at Somersham Road in second position in the standings - 20-3 in a crucial showdown with Ollie Raine providing both tries. St Ives had been forced to stew over their only defeat of the campaign a narrow 6-5 loss at Bedford outfit Queens on February 17 due to a blank weekend being followed by a weather wipeout. But they returned to action in terrific style to see off the side who were their closest challengers at kick-off. Skipper Ollie Bartlett said: To put in a performance of this quality after three weeks without a game is a credit to all the lads. We had to work really hard against a strong Vipers side, but we thoroughly deserved the win. St Ives had to survive some early pressure before pounding the visiting defence and breaking through courtesy of Raine for a try converted by Jim Robinson. They were soon on the back-foot again as Vipers used their big pack to gain territory and launch a siege which led to them kicking a penalty. But they were the only three points that St Ives conceded all afternoon as they went on to control the contest in the second half. The classy kicking of Paul Ashbridge allowed the Bulls to pin their opponents back into their own 22 for long periods and they coughed up a penalty which Robinson steered between the posts. And a second try soon followed as Raine again went over after picking up the ball from the base of a scrum. Robinson added the extras and also found the target with another penalty before a determined defensive effort in the closing stages denied Vipers a consolation try. St Ives now sit nine points clear of Northampton Casuals in the race for the title. The locals only need to gain 12 points from their final five fixtures to be mathematically assured of promotion to Midlands Division Two East (South) level for the first time. They turn their attention to the Midlands Senior Vase final this weekend when hosting Midlands Division Three East (North) table-toppers Long Eaton in a showpiece clash being staged at Somersham Road, 12.30pm. The Bulls then return to league action with a March 24 trip to fourth-placed Stockwood Park.