Bury St Edmunds’ defeat was just as enjoyable as their multi-try victories
- Credit: Andy Abbott
Bury St Edmunds won London 1 North at a canter last season, accruing a perfect record, and the fans loved it.
A few months later and those that basked in the sunshine at The Haberden on Saturday discovered, if they didn’t already know, that there will be no walkovers this season.
But provided Bury keep putting in performances like this, then the support for the team will not waiver. Indeed, the numbers will swell.
It’s a bold statement, but the weekend’s 36-30 home defeat to Old Elthamians in the hosts’ first-ever National League encounter was probably more enjoyable than any of the multi-try romps last season.
Okay, so the result did not provide the fairytale ending. But the guts, desire and skill on offer, especially from the home side in the second half, was rugby at its best.
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Attacking towards the home fans in the stand next to the club house, Bury’s players grew in stature as the sound levels intensified.
It took Gavin Hogg’s team a while to get into the swing of things, as they were taken over by stage fright in the opening exchanges, and two early tries from the visitors’ pacy Renford Bennett turned him into chief party-pooper. First the winger exploited a gap after the home defence parted like the Red Sea and then charged down an attempted kick from Bury’s star man, Will Martin, for his second.
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More on Martin in a while, but six minutes in, things were looking desperate with the visitors 14-0 up.
Warnings from chairman Mike Robinson and captain Matt Edison in the days leading up to the game, about keeping possession, were not heeded and by the time Richard Judd charged over for a converted try to make it 21-0, the game looked over.
The visitors were clinical if not spectacular and capitalised on the opportunities handed to them.
Bury had to rely on the trusty boot of Martin to keep the score respectable in the first half, the hosts going in at half-time 24-9 down.
At least after a disastrous opening 20 minutes, Bury stemmed the flow and came out with a determination in the second half that matched that which they displayed towards the end of the first.
They were winning their line-outs, keeping better ball and forced their opposition back for the majority.
It was Bury with their chests puffed out and they began asking questions of Old Elthamians.
Chris Snelling scored Bury’s first National League try, weaving in and out before crashing over the line with a score borne out of sheer aggression – so much so that it was too much for visiting back Rob White who took exception to the winger’s bulldozing approach.
The visitors added a penalty for another three points to maintain a sizeable gap but the home fans were soon on their feet again.
This time rugged hooker Beau Gibson crashed over, completing the formalities after receiving an inch-perfect pass from the barnstorming Martin who wasn’t going to be stopped.
It was at this moment that the realisation struck that Bury were here in the league to stay, the crowd cranked up the volume a few more notches and the players had the bit between their teeth, notably Gibson, Edison, Martin and Tanimo Samoa.
With the score 30-23 to the visitors, the home team scored again, Martin chipping the ball over the top and collecting his own pass in the corner.
His conversion came from a tight angle but the ball just dropped over the posts to square the scores.
Bury chased the win but allowed Tom White to score a drop-goal and then add further points with a penalty to complete the scoring.
Bury were cheered on to the end as Old Elthamians clung on for dear life This was quality rugby and the feel-good factor that emanated after the final whistle suggests there will be more good days than bad this year.
The games will be tighter this season, and Bury may lose a few, but the ride will be just as exciting as the title-winning campaign.