RUGBY: Bulls pass test of character as they return to winning ways

Captain Ollie Bartlett (left) and Mickey Drake both scored tries as St Ives beat Biggleswade to seal

Captain Ollie Bartlett (left) and Mickey Drake both scored tries as St Ives beat Biggleswade to seal the Midlands Division Three East (South) title. Picture: PAUL COX - Credit: Archant

St Ives Bulls returned to winning ways on Saturday as they scored a 26-22 win over Market Harborough.

It was a real test of character for the Bulls in Midlands 2 East (South), with the result in doubt until the dying seconds of a bruising encounter that saw momentum shift throughout.

After a bright start, St Ives found themselves behind as the visitors were award a scrum on the half-way line.

Even though they were being driven back at pace, a Harborough player was able to collect the ball and dart through a gaping hole in the home defence. Despite being felled by the returning Ben Fleming, he was able to offload to the supporting winger to open the scoring.

And matters quickly worsened for the hosts as Harborough executed a simple and direct move from a lineout to score a second try, putting them 14-0 ahead inside the opening 15 minutes.

The hosts fought back gamely, however, and ran over two tries of their own in the lead up to half-time to reduce the deficit, albeit with only one of the scores converted.

A penalty for the visitors meant the match was finely poised at 17-12 at the break.

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After a rocky performance in defence in the first half, St Ives resolved to tighten up and sought to pick up where they had left off at the end of the opening period.

Mickey Drake, returning from injury, spotted a gap and darted through it. He left most of the defence and his support behind him before new recruit Martin Baldwin, on for his debut appearance, gathered and sprinted clear to touch down under the posts.

With the game tight, both teams had opportunities, but final passes or kicks went astray and the score remained close. Both kickers had penalty attempts drift wide and the tension began to mount.

It was the hosts who would make the telling breakthrough, though, as Chris Williams forced his way over the line after a period of sustained pressure from St Ives.

Throwing caution to the win, the visitors laid siege to the St Ives try line, and it took a might effort in defence to keep the attackers at bay.

With two minutes remaining on the clock, the St Ives defence was breached but, crucially, the conversion was missed, and the hosts were able to snuff out a final attack as the clock ticked into added time.

Skipper Ollie Bartlett said: “Once again, we gifted our opponents a start, but we showed real strength of character to come back the way we did. Games like this are the ones that will stay in the memory and give us confidence for the next.”