St Ives were brushed aside by the Midlands Division Two East (South) table-toppers in their first outing of 2020.

Duncan Williams touched down for two tries as St Ives faced leaders Leighton Buzzard. Picture: PAUL COXDuncan Williams touched down for two tries as St Ives faced leaders Leighton Buzzard. Picture: PAUL COX

But there were plenty of reasons for encouragement to be taken from a 29-17 defeat at Leighton Buzzard last Saturday.

Not least of all was the scoreline which was considerably more respectable than the 52-7 drubbing the second-bottom Bulls received at the hands of the same high-flying opponents back in September.

The much narrower defeat on this occasion was a reflection of the way the Bulls have displayed improvement after a difficult start to the season in which they lost seven successive games.

Leighton Buzzard hit the front with a try which was expertly converted from out wide, but St Ives responded well as Duncan Williams touched down after namesake, Chris, towered to secure the ball at a lineout.

Bradley Robinson on the ball for St Ives at Leighton Buzzard with team-mate Ben Fleming in support. Picture: PAUL COXBradley Robinson on the ball for St Ives at Leighton Buzzard with team-mate Ben Fleming in support. Picture: PAUL COX

They were undone in similar fashion moments later as the hosts also made a lineout and maul count, but continued to pose plenty of problems.

Buzzard often had to resort to offending to keep the Bulls at bay, but one such penalty led to their second try as Williams went over again.

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That reduced their arrears to just two points at the break so it was a major disappointment that St Ives allowed their hosts to claim the opening try of the second period.

Chris Williams of St Ives is airborne during their loss to Leighton Buzzard. Picture: PAUL COXChris Williams of St Ives is airborne during their loss to Leighton Buzzard. Picture: PAUL COX

The game followed a familiar pattern as the Bulls bounced back with a third score of their own as Chris Williams surged across the line following a series of scrums with Joseph Cox adding the extras.

But St Ives' hopes of a claiming a notable scalp - and causing a considerable upset in the process - were dashed by two further Buzzard tries.

They made the most of a quick tap penalty on the first occasion and then punished a turnover from the Bulls to complete the scoring.

Match-day coach Max Dominy said: "We played very well for much of the game and we had them under a lot of pressure when sticking to our plans.

"We have to admit that our inability to convert many of the chances we created cost us in the end.

"But this performance shows we are still moving in the right direction and we can approach the coming games with confidence."

The Bulls can boost their survival prospects by beating another struggling side, Long Buckby, at Somersham Road this Saturday.