St Ives emerged with their heads held high after coming up short in their bid to end the perfect record of Midlands Division Three East (South) table-toppers Stewart & Lloyds last Saturday.

St Ives try-scorer Alex Henly dodges tackles against Stewart & Lloyds.St Ives try-scorer Alex Henly dodges tackles against Stewart & Lloyds.

The Corby side rolled into Somersham Road in possession of a seven-match winning streak, but they had to survive their toughest test yet to depart with a slender 21-17 success.

St Ives hit the front when a sublime Mickey Drake pass allowed Alex Henly the simplest of tries, with Paul Ashbridge adding the extras.

They held their seven-point advantage until the stroke of half-time when the visitors levelled following a long spell of line-out pressure.

A penalty then handed Stewart & Lloyd the advantage early in the second period and it was increased by a converted penalty try following a series of collapsed scrums.

Ashbridge sent over a successful penalty to keep St Ives in contention before another try left the away side in the driving seat.

But the Bulls weren't about to roll over and Duncan Williams applied the finishing touch to a fine team try which Ashbridge converted.

St Ives then piled on the pressure against a rocking set of pacesetters, who had been reduced to 14 men, but they couldn't manage another breakthrough.

Coach Phil Brown admitted: "We played well, but we didn't manage to convert enough of our opportunities. That's the difference between being the mid-table side we are at the moment, and a top side such as Stewart & Lloyds."

St Ives slipped into the bottom half of the standings following their defeat, but they will be favourites to return to winning ways when travelling to struggling St Neots for a Hunts derby showdown this Saturday.

Brown added: "Games against St Neots are always tough encounters. Many of the guys know each other from playing rugby league for Roosters and that adds some spice.

"We'll train hard this week and make sure we are ready on Saturday."

Second-bottom St Neots are six points from safety after being heavily beaten 49-10 at Northampton Men's Own - the team directly above them in the table - last weekend.

First-half tries from Dan Court and James Michael kept Saints in contention at 20-10 at the break, but they couldn't live with their hosts in the second period.