FOR 80 minutes on Saturday, friendships will be forgotten as St Ives meet St Neots in the big Huntingdonshire rugby union derby at The Chicken Shack.
Earlier this season, the two teams met at The Common in St Neots and St Ives won that game 20-19 – so there will be a score to settle when the Saints travel to Somersham Road for the 3pm kick-off.
“It’s a massive game,” St Ives captain Jim Robinson told The Hunts Post. “It has been made all the bigger because we sneaked the win by one point at their place in November.
“They will be smarting from that. The banter has already started on Facebook.
“Members of both teams play in the same St Ives Rooster rugby league team during the summer and a lot of the players know each other – but come the game those friendships will be forgotten for 80 minutes. We are expecting a hard and tough game.”
There is more than honour at stake for the Bulls. After narrowly missing out on a promotion place last season, St Ives are second going into this game, trailing top team Brackley, and very much in the race for promotion. And Robinson believes the next three games could make or break their season.
After the game against St Neots, who are fifth, the Bulls will have another two consecutive home games, against Bedford Swifts and Brackley.
“If we can get two wins from those three games, then I think we will win promotion,” said Robinson.
“We have already started talking about it. Last season we finished third and the team was a little naïve and inexperienced at times – but this season we have only lost the one game and have beaten some strong teams.
“Promotion is definitely in our hands.”
Paul Ashbridge – the captain of St Ives Roosters during the summer – is a doubt for the game after injuring a knee in the Bulls’ win over Westwood two Saturdays ago.
The influential scrum half will train this week and a decision will be made on his fitness closer to the game.
Steve Burke is also a doubt for St Ives after picking up an injury in their 46-0 win over Corby at the weekend.
Meanwhile, St Neots captain Rhod Howcroft says the club will be giving youth a chance.
The Saints’ own hopes of promotion have tailed off in the last month, so the club is looking to the future with one eye on next season’s campaign.
Seventeen-year-old Jordan Rook will feature and 18-year-olds Joe Woodgate, Callum McShane and Aiden Jordan will all get another chance to impress against a St Ives.
“We are by no means defeatist but we are looking at next season now – but it would be nice to take the points from the Ives,” said Howcroft.
“The young lads have done really well for us – they started training with us at the beginning of last season and they have really come on this year.”