St Ives Bulls are plotting a return to winning ways in their first fixture of 2019 as they prepare for a mouth-watering derby clash with Huntingdon Stags.

St Ives man Duncan Williams powers through the Huntingdon tackles. Picture: PAUL COXSt Ives man Duncan Williams powers through the Huntingdon tackles. Picture: PAUL COX

After a run of four successive victories in league and cup competition, St Ives came unstuck at Bugbrooke in their final fixture of 2018, slipping to a narrow 21-20 loss in their Midlands 2 East (South) Division encounter.

However, the Bulls are looking to rediscover that winning feeling when they welcome Huntingdon to Somersham Road on January 5, having already beaten their local rivals this season, a comprehensive 57-5 win in September.

Since relegation into Midlands 2 last season, the Stags have again struggled in league competition and find themselves propping up the division.

Despite the failing fortunes of their Huntingdonshire rivals, however, St Ives are expecting a tougher challenge when the sides meet again on Saturday, 2.15pm.

Phil Brown, St Ives director of rugby, said: "We are well aware that, despite their league position, Stags' performances have been improving. They have recruited and had a couple of players return, and are beginning to click. We are under no illusion that it will be a much tougher game than earlier in the season.

"So, we will prepare as best we can leading up to the game and look forward to welcoming them. It's the first match of the second half of the season and will be an indication of whether our ambitions are realistic."

The 2nd XV will also be returning to action on January 5 as they travel to Cantabrigian 3rds in Eastern Counties Division 2 West, 2pm.

Like their colleagues in the senior side, the club's second string are also flying high in the league and will be looking to make up ground lost in their December 15 defeat to promotion-chasing Shelford 4ths.

Brown said: "The aims of 1st and 2nd XV players are similar in wanting to achieve the highest league positions possible for the respective teams.

"Recognising that will be hard work, we as coaches have been challenged by the players to push them to greater heights, which demonstrates the desire of the entire playing group."