Table-topping Ives ready for weekend Neots clash

ST Ives Bulls meet St Neots Saints in what will be a “fierce but friendly” game at the Chicken Shack on Saturday.

The Midlands Four East South rivals have both started their seasons well – but while St Neots lie in fifth after winning five of their seven games, it is St Ives who top the table after winning all seven of their matches. The Bulls head coach Alan Hine puts that outstanding start down to his team’s youthful energy and experienced captain.

“It’s probably the best start we have made for a number of years,” he said.

“It’s a young squad we have here; quite a few of the players were playing in the under-17s team last year. They put their hands up during the summer and have proved to me that they can play senior rugby.

“There’s probably six of them who are 18 or thereabouts – but we try not to play them all at once, maybe two or three in each game.”

Captain Jim Robinson has also made an impact in his first season back with the club.

Having taken a break from rugby to concentrate on his career as a golf professional, Robinson has returned to the game this season and Hine believes his experience is key to the squad’s success so far.

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“Jim was reluctant to take the captaincy,” said Hine. “But he has been excellent – a real captain. He may not be in the first flush of youth, but with so many youngsters around it is good to have an experienced player like him in the camp.”

So does the club have one eye on promotion already? “I’m reluctant to talk about that,” said the 61-year-old, who doubles up as head coach of the Finnish national rugby union team. “We have had a great start to the season but we have a tough game against St Neots on Saturday and December is a very key month.

“We have a fierce but friendly rivalry with St Neots – it will be a competitive game.”

St Ives beat Westwood 76-0 at the Chicken Shack last Saturday – but are still to play the teams in second and third: Northampton Men’s Own and Old Newtonians.

On December 3 they will got to Northampton, who have won six in six, and then the following Saturday they will host Old Newtonians, who have played six games but who also have a 100 per cent record.

“We have always been a journeyman club,” said Hine. “We quite often lose players to the likes of Huntingdon, Peterborough and Cambridge – so we have to be realistic.

“But we have a chance - and if we maintain our form, then you never know, this could be our season...”