Saints in no-show before big derby clash

ST NEOTS were unable to field a team for their Midlands Four East South game against Oundle on Saturday – but chairman Nigel Samms says he is confident there will be enough first-team players available for the visit of St Ives this weekend.

Having won their last five games on the trot, the Saints were up to fourth in the table, just one place and nine points behind their Huntingdonshire rivals.

However, things look so different now after the Bulls beat Westwood 71-0 on Saturday and St Neots’ opponents Oundle leapfrogged them after they were awarded a walkover win.

“We need more senior players,” said Samms, bluntly, adding: “I don’t really know how we get around this!”

The size of St Neots first-team squad is an issue. There are just enough players to compete at the level the team is playing its rugby at – and Samms says players in the club’s seconds and veterans teams are not good enough to make the step up. “That’s why we decided to call off the first-team game rather than the seconds,” he said.

“There are a lot of younger or older players in those teams and we couldn’t field a team of players at the first team’s level that would have been able to compete.

“We didn’t want to break players.”

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When St Ives beat St Neots 38-5 at The Chicken Shack at the back end of last year, there were concerns that the Saints’ lightweight squad was going to limp its way through the season. But, after Christmas, the team’s form picked up and by the end of February they were seriously challenging the Bulls for third place. But this no-show means they are now fifth after Oundle went above them without even getting their boots dirty.

Captain Rhod Howcroft, who scored a hat-trick of tries the previous week when St Neots beat Corby 71-13, said: “It’s disappointing – but we offered them a friendly game which means we didn’t lose any points, we just couldn’t win any … We still have a handful of games to go and we can still catch up.”

Samms said he was sure there wouldn’t be a problem for the big derby which is scheduled to take place at The Common on Saturday. “We are confident that one will go ahead,” he told The Hunts Post. “This is the first time in a couple of years that this has happened. The squad was just hit by a mixture work commitments, holidays and injuries.

“We need a little more depth…”

MEANWHILE, St Ives scored 11 tries for the second match in a row when they went to Westwood on Saturday and won 71-0.

Having scored 11 times in their convincing win at Corby the previous week, the Bulls travelled to Peterborough to take on Westwood with their tails up, with Paul Ashbridge scoring four of the tries and Max Dominy converting eight.

St Ives were dominant from the outset with Stuart Cornwell opening the scoring with a well-taken try. Ashbridge, again in fine form, punished Westwood for not covering the fringes at the breakdown and went over for two quick tries. Jack Blackley, Michael Wright and Manu Hovette all got on the score sheet in the first half, while the biggest cheer went up when vice captain Josh Dear got his second try in two games.

It continued to be one-sided in the second half with Jamie Noble, playing his first game of the year, getting in on the action with some trademark dinner-plate hand-offs. Big Russell Warrington made great yards every time he carried the ball and first-year senior Tom Moffitt again had a good day. John Paxton, in for the unavailable Mickey Drake, kept things varied with a mixture of kicks, passes and strong running.

Adam Scott ended up going off with a cut head for the second time in as many games but his younger brother Ollie came on and covered the ground well.

Following his hat-trick last week, Will Mandley came on and impressed again, adding another try, while Noble’s strong running paid off with a score before Ashbridge got himself another two.

“There were a number of outstanding performances today but it was the spirit within the team that impressed me,” said the captain Jim Robinson.

“A couple of times Westwood broke through but our cover defence resulted in another clean sheet.

“We have our eyes on finishing in the top two and the next three games will determine whether we get promoted, starting with a trip to St Neots.”

Midlands Four East South results: Aylestone Athletic 15-67 Old Newtonians, Corby 7-72 Northampton Mens Own, Oundle HWO St Neots, Stamford College Old Boys 7-34 Thorney, Wellingborough OG 7-12 Stoneygate, Westwood 0-71 St Ives.

Midlands Four East South

P W D L F A Pts

Old Newtonians 17 16 0 1 751 158 80

Northampton MO 17 16 0 1 754 152 78

St Ives 17 14 1 2 760 109 70

Oundle 17 12 1 4 569 182 60

St Neots 17 11 0 6 451 202 56

Stoneygate 17 12 1 4 466 205 52

Thorney 17 5 1 11 236 498 27

Wellingborough OG 17 4 0 13 273 672 21

Aylestone Athletic 17 3 0 14 270 665 18

Westwood 17 3 0 14 154 757 15

Stamford College 17 2 0 15 99 506 10

Corby 17 2 0 15 181 858 7