Stags, Saints and Bulls all win again as Huntingdonshire rules Midlands East South rugby
HUNTINGDON & District rarely escaped their own 22 in the first-half of this decisive home win over Lutterworth – but, no matter, when the Stags had their chances they took them and the team is now seven points clear at the top of the table with seven wins from seven.
The first two times the Stags escaped into Lutterworth territory they scored. Firstly, a perfectly weighted pass from Dan Malem set-up man of the match Jesse Milne to cross over – and then James Thorpe touched down with Malem converting both tries.
At the other end of the park, Stags held solid despite wave after wave of Lutterworth attacks.
The telling blow came late on in the first-half when Rory Parker shook off a few would-be tacklers to score between the posts and make it easy for Malem to add the extras.
Lutterworth reduced the arrears from the kicking-tee after Wayne Bradley had been shown a yellow card – but suddenly it was 14 against 14 after another sending off and Stags went for the jugular.
First, Malem restored the lead to 15 points with a penalty, and then Milne made a stunning solo run to five metres out when, tackled, he managed to offload to the back-in-action Bradley, who crossed over for the bonus try.
“We knew today wouldn’t be easy as Lutterworth are a much better side than their league position,” said coach Damian Wales.
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“We took our chances in the first half and Lutterworth didn’t take theirs. That was probably the difference.”
ST Neots might have dropped from top to second in the Midlands Four East South table but there’s no need to panic. The Saints are still unbeaten after winning game seven of seven and beating one of the tougher teams in their division.
The 17-15 win at Oundle keeps them on course for a tilt at promotion with Huntingdonshire rivals St Ives chasing them all the way with the same 34-point total on place below them in third. Brackley, who are now top, are only there on account of their extra bonus point.
Oundle took the lead in Northamptonshire with an early chip and chase, but this only galvanised the Saints team who had not been behind all season.
Scrum-half Andy Samm found Dan Glover at a well-won scrum and Glover dummied the defence for an excellent try.
Oundle came back strong after that but for 10 minutes of concerted pressure, all they could show was a single penalty score. Glover also converted a penalty for the visitors and it was 10-8 at half-time.
Big hitting tackles from Ed Hunt, Rob Ardrie, John Hopewell and Lewis Hall kept Oundle out of scoring range for most of the second half, while carrying runs over the gain line by Matt Elwood and Rhod Howcroft kept St Neots lively up front.
The pressure paid off when the Saints were awarded a penalty try after winning a scrum five-yards out and pushing for the goal line. Glover duly dispatched the conversion.
To their credit, Oundle came back and were rewarded with a try of their own which left the visitors protecting a two-point lead for the final 10 minutes.
“They put their bodies on the line to secure a win for our club today in a very confrontational game.We cannot ask any more that that from our squad,” said coach Mick Cleary.
ST Ives made the short trip up the A1 to Westwood with Ollie Bartlett on fire in Westwood scoring four of the 12 tries in their 72-0 win.
It was the Bulls’ seventh victory in seven Midlands Four East South games and captain Jim Robinson was hard-pushed to find any negatives from the performance. “At times we were outstanding today,” he said. “Our pack was magnificent and the back row were unstoppable.”
Unstoppable indeed. The afternoon began with Luke Slade collecting an up-and-under from John Paxton to score the first before the St Ives pack dominated the forward battle with Slade offloading to Bartlett for his second. After 20 minutes, the Bulls were five tries up after another for Bartlett and others for Paxton and Johan Clare. Just before half-time Paxton fed the skipper and Robinson scored under the posts.
Jamie Noble was introduced in the second half and a combination Slade, Bartlett and Steve Burke worked hard for the next tries from Bartlett – his third and fourth – and Slade.
Paul Ashbridge picked up the team’s first yellow card of the season after that, but from the restart Noble bullbozed through half a dozen defenders before finding Russell Warrington who scored a great try.
Paxton took his tally to two before Robinson completed the afternoon with a touchdown in the corner.