St Ives find the perfect way to start the new year

Dave Sykes powers past the defenders to setup another score for St Ives seconds.

Dave Sykes powers past the defenders to setup another score for St Ives seconds. - Credit: PAUL COX

Three games, two wins and one played in the perfect spirit made it a wonderful start to 2022 for St Ives Rugby Club.

The first team had a 17-15 win on the road at Northampton Casuals in a tense encounter that ended with defiant defending from the visitors.

The wet conditions did not allow flowing rugby but set things up nicely for the big ball carriers to spearhead the attacks of both sides.

Ives got the first score of the afternoon.

Cullan Smy’s kick through deflected off a defender and skidded into touch five metres from the line but before the teams could set-up for the line-out, Smy took a quick throw and Mike Brennan beat his man to score in the corner.

It gave Ives the confidence to attack more and more, with Tom Woodrow in particular prominent in making good ground, and after a penalty was kicked to the corner, the line-out got their chance and Duncan Williams drove over for a 10-0 lead.

The hosts did have chances, John Paxton having to sprint across the field to make a vital try-saving tackle, and they also spurned a penalty as the half closed without any more scores.

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They missed another kick at goal just after the restart and the entire Bulls pack were prominent in preventing them gaining any forward momentum.

They couldn't keep Casuals out all afternoon though and a turnover brought a try before a successful penalty cut the lead to just two points.

It meant that an Alex Henly try, ghosting over untouched under the posts, was hugely gratifying with Paul Ashbridge's conversion ultimately crucial.

That was because of a score with a little more than 10 minutes to go, converted again to bring the gap back to two.

But with Ollie Bartlett making one of a number of stand-out tackles, Ives survived a tense finale, with forward passes also contributing to Casuals' failure to score.

The result lifts Ives up one place to ninth in Midlands Two East (South).

Ben Peach of St Ives bursts past a Rushden & Higham defender.

Ben Peach of St Ives bursts past a Rushden & Higham defender. - Credit: PAUL COX

The second team were also on their travels and returned home with a fantastic performance under their belts and a 52-12 win at Rushden & Higham.

They bagged eight tries in total in a fixture that was arranged at the last minute.

They led 24-12 at half-time, skipper Rob Olivier, Joe Cox, Tom Watts and Sam Vivers getting the tries, and the second half was equally hard fought.

But while Rushden could not breach the sound Ives defence, Ives enjoyed another four-try half.

Ben Peach of St Ives bursts past a Rushden & Higham defender.

Ben Peach of St Ives bursts past a Rushden & Higham defender. - Credit: PAUL COX

The forwards combined for the first of them, Shaun Mundy, Oli Watts and John Alexander all involved for Ben Peach to score, and Vivers and Cox both went over for their second of the afternoon.

Cox also added six conversions with the final try coming from Fin Ruddock after Phil Shire had been held up.

St Ives' Tom Watts surges through the Rushden defence and the rain to score.

St Ives' Tom Watts surges through the Rushden defence and the rain to score. - Credit: PAUL COX

The third match saw players from Ives' third team combine with those from nine other clubs and five different counties to form a barbarians side that played Cantabrigians.

The initiative was led by four social team captains who have been working together following difficulties fulfilling fixtures at grassroots level after the pandemic.

Cantabs secured a 64-10 win although ultimately the score mattered little.

Player and co-organiser Craig Cheetham of St Ives said: “The grassroots game is facing a bit of an availability crisis this season, so with the support of Eastern Counties Rugby Union and the dedication of the players and captains, we managed to get a brilliant fixture on that was thoroughly enjoyed by all and a huge boost for the sport in our region."