Bury St Edmunds 13
With Bury having led for more than three quarters of his final match in charge at The Haberden, Gavin Hogg felt it was an 80 minutes which summed up a truly frustrating season.
A bumper crowd thought to number about 500 had their hopes up for a stylish home send off for the club’s director of rugby after Liam McBride showed great footwork to weave away from several tackles to land the first blow in the opening five minutes.
But it was an all-too-rare moment of composure for the dominant hosts, with South African Dononvan O’Grady having made up for a poor conversion miss with a precise penalty for an 8-0 lead.
But despite Bury, who had Kiwi hooker and former captain Dan Collins playing his last game at The Haberden after a two-year spell, monopolising possession and territory, they only carried an 8-7 lead into the interval.
Sam Rogers’ close-range finish and Tom Best’s conversion came from a rare Canterbury attack just after the half-hour mark.
But Hogg’s side were guilty of being too cocky with their breakthrough pass, one going under legs and another over the head. Both ending promising attacks when simpler decisions were required.
An admirable rearguard action from the Kent side continued to repel repeated incursions into their half after the restart, until a clever move orchestrated from a strong maul put Affleck away down the blindside for an unconverted score. With 12 minutes to play and a 13-7 lead, it looked to be enough.
But a woeful conversion attempt from O’Grady was punished when Canterbury, who like Bury had nothing but pride to play for, took the lead for the first time three minutes later. A catch-and-drive from a penalty worked an opening for Daniel Smart to ground, with Best showing up his opposite number with a great kick from the wing to put the visitors 14-13 up.
Bury promised much but delivered little in the concluding part of the game, meaning their boss, who is moving on to coach Old Albanians in National One after tomorrow’s season-concluding long trip to face mid-table Clifton (3pm), was left to reflect on a frustrating ending to life in Suffolk.
“I guess today is really a summary of what our season has been like for large parts,” he said. “At times it felt like we were in control of the game and dominating possession with a lot of effort and enthusiasm, but a lot of mistakes at key times let us down.
“And even in the last play of the game we were seven or eight metres out from their line and then just didn’t have that patience to maintain possession of the ball and that accuracy to execute it.”
While Clifton will also want to end with a win, one has to feel Hogg’s players owe him a big 80 minutes in Bristol.
Bury: 15 Lord, 14 Snelling, 13 Sterling, 12 Bailey-Kearney, 11 Meyers, 10 McBride, 9 O’Grady, 1 Palmer, 2 Collins, 3 Coutts, 4 Whetton, 5 Marini, 6 Gillespie, 7 Stapleton, 8 Edison.
Coaches MOTM: 3 David Coutts.