GALLERY: How Bury St Edmunds sealed the perfect promotion from National 3, against Gravesend
- Credit: Gregg Brown
The perfect day was encapsulated in 30 seconds at a sun-soaked Haberden on Saturday.
Ollie Watson surged through to add yet another five points to an impressive total for the hosts, just half a minute after one of the biggest roars of the day welcomed the PA announcer’s statement that second-placed Barnes had lost 8-7 at Westcliff.
An historic first National 3 title would have been in the bag, win or lose, but the hosts left nothing to chance, putting in a performance that made a mockery of any nerves Gavin Hogg’s men may have had pre-game. Brutal in defence, relentless in attack, Bury slowly but surely squeezed the life out of a Gravesend team intent on spoiling the promotion party at the Haberden.
There were a few murmurs of doubt amongst the home faithful after Bury made a sluggish start, giving the visitors the early impetus.
However, that all changed once Jesse Rush had made a rip-roaring interception to get the hosts on the front foot. That eventual attack came to nothing, but it wasn’t long until Bury got points on the board.
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Matt Edison, a monster at the line-out all day, won possession for Bury and the ball found its way to inspirational skipper Chris Snelling, who gradually worked his way from right to left.
The ball eventually found its way to former St Joseph’s College schoolboy Shaq Meyers who was forced over by his team-mates, determined to get the scoring started.
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Mike Sage missed the conversion but the home team were on the board after nine minutes.
Any apprehension that Bury may have had, had been put to bed and the crowd gave another big cheer moments later as, in separate plays, Charlie Pask and Luke Beales crunched into the opposition with two extremely meaty tackles, keeping Gravesend at bay.
Bury then went 10-0 up courtesy of Sage, the winger, dropped from last week’s defeat at Barnes, going over under the posts after receiving a precision pass from the impressive Edison. Sage then converted his own try.
Gravesend were well and truly on the back foot and a few choice words were delivered to some of his team-mates by winger Temi Okenla, who was suggesting that they were too amenable in allowing the Wolfpack and Edison in particular to make great strides towards the try line.
The visitors didn’t heed Okenla’s warning however, Bury-born academy product Snelling the next player to go over to increase his side’s lead to 17-0, Sage missing the conversion.
In the next phase, Gravesend did provide more resistance and Watson was on the end of a fierce tackle from the opposition.
Bury were in irresistible form though and Sage soon gave his team a big cushion with another try, although he missed what seemed to be an easy conversion.
The Haberden side looked content to go into the interval with a 22-0 lead but Hogg’s men were not finished and Sam Bixby steamrollered his way through the Gravesend defence with the last play of the first half. Pask, having taken over kicking duties from Sage, converted and Bury led at the break 29-0.
Bury did not want the interval to come and following the restart, Okenla ensured the home team would not finish with a perfect score, the winger diving over in the corner following some enterprising play from the Kent team.
That try was a slight warning, if it was needed, that the game wasn’t over and Bury, although seemingly in control, faced the biggest 40 minutes of their season.
For a while the score stayed the same as Gravesend repelled a couple of Bury attacks, but the home team eventually got into their stride when Snelling found Greg White with a pass that dissected the Gravesend rearguard and the powerful inside centre gleefully charged over the line.
Pask missed the conversion but soon found his shooting boots when replacement Ben Enoka came from nowhere to cross the line for another five points which this time, was converted.
The carnival atmosphere was beginning to heat up amongst the 1,500 or so at the Haberden and Enoka was soon on the scoresheet again, this time being the recipient of a pass from human bulldozer Loma Kivalu, who brushed off two men before finding his team-mate.
Bury defended extremely well for the majority of the game but Gravesend were determined not to roll over and grabbed their second try in the corner to dampen spirits ever so slightly.
Bury still led by a mile and the title was all but theirs, but they were intent to put a gloss on proceedings and keep it tight when defending.
Rush soon had Bury back in the points, with his own try in the corner, before Watson’s try came moments after the news everyone wanted to hear, Barnes had failed to win at Westcliff.
Bury could relax but Kivalu was in no mood to take his foot off the gas and he completed the scoring, running over the line, arms aloft, to cap a memorable day for the west Suffolk team and a wonderful moment for the player.
Hogg’s team were the consummate professionals throughout and showed no hangover from last week’s disappointment, when the National 3 title could have been wrapped up at second-placed Barnes.
They were brutal and Hogg and playing chairman Terry Sands may just have to be the same in the summer when it comes to team selection and recruitment, with National 2 looming for the first time ever.
However, they look sure to give the majority of this talented team the chance to shine in a higher division and the players, if they can replicate their endeavour and determination that saw them fight to the final whistle, should be able to hold their own against some big name opposition next term.