Bury St Edmunds 27
Westcombe Park 14
Gavin Hogg was thrilled with how clinical his side was in defence and attack as they secured their eighth victory from eight matches in 2015.
Bury’s director of rugby saw his team fly into a 14-0 lead before Westcombe Park slowly gained control of the game, but two further scores in the second half sealed the Suffolk side’s first bonus-point triumph in three matches.
That keeps Bury firmly in charge of their own destiny in National Three London and South East ahead of a Saturday off and their final four matches of the campaign.
“The advantage for us is we have got two home games and we have to make sure we get two wins there — then we have to pick up a win in one of our away games,” said Hogg, whose side require two wins and three bonus points to guarantee at least a play-off berth and three bonus-point victories to take the title. “It’s going to be no easy task, but our goal over our last block of three games was to go unbeaten, which we have managed to do.
“Now we have a week off to recharge the guys and are looking forward to going down to East Grinstead, which will be a massive game because they will have aspirations of second place.
“If we can get a win there though, it really puts it in our hands to push on from there.”
He added: “It was nice to get back to being a bit more clinical.
“We probably didn’t create as many chances as we had in previous weeks, but we probably created six and took four.”
Bury got off to a flying start and were 14-0 to the good inside 14 minutes.
Jesse Rush’s testing kick set up good field position and the Bury scrum pushed back Westcombe Park’s pack before the ball was spread to Tim Mann, who handed off a visiting player to muscle his way through and dot the ball down behind the posts.
The second try came when Bury were deep inside their own 22, under pressure from Westcombe Park, and the ball went loose to Chris Snelling, who sprinted the length of the pitch to go over the line.
Tom Bird converted on both occasions, but the hosts were unable to turn the screw further and found themselves under pressure for long periods.
Luke Beales was knocked out for a moment making a challenge and had to leave the field — just one of several occasions the Bury defence had to put their bodies on the line to keep Westcombe at bay.
Bury could hardly clear their lines, but from one occasion a fabulous crossfield kick almost found Shaq Meyers, only for the away team to break and almost score.
George Bretag-Norris was sent to the sinbin as Bury’s defence became increasingly desperate and the extra man paid dividends for the visitors as they were awarded a penalty try, which they converted, as the half-time whistle sounded.
Westcombe kept up their momentum into the second half as they powered Bury off their own scrum.
Bird eased the pressure on the scoreboard with a penalty to stretch the Suffolk side’s lead back into double figures and Bury finally began to enjoy a sustained period on top.
That cranked up as Bury earned four consecutive scrums on the Westcombe Park line, which eventually created some space for substitute Ollie Watson to collect Kieran Black’s pass and go over in the left corner in the 65th minute.
Bird missed the difficult conversion, but he helped Bury secured a bonus point when he made a break four minutes later.
With the visiting defenders scrambling to get back, James Solomon almost got to the scoring zone before Mann showed off his best football skills to dribble the loose ball over the line and fall on it.
Buoyed by securing the maximum haul available to them, Bury started to strut their stuff and Jesse Rush showed his best dancefloor moves to waltz past seven players with quick feet in the middle of the pitch, only to be sent crashing to the ground by an eighth.
Westcombe earned a deserved late consolation score following some good passing, but the home team had done enough to remain six points clear at the summit.
Barnes are now the side in closest proximity to Bury after London Irish Wild Geese went down to a surprise home loss against Guernsey.
That means Bury need to secure 11 points from a possible 20 over their final four games to secure at least a play-off berth, with their trip to Barnes on April 11 looking more and more like a possible title decider.
Reflecting on his team’s triumph, Hogg added: “We spoke to the guys all week about going out and enjoying themselves a bit more. We felt we had put a bit too much pressure on ourselves over the past couple of weeks about how we were going to play. There was a real sense of excitement this week, because we knew it was going to be a dry day and the pitch was going to be hard again, so we could get some of our faster guys in the game.
“We made a fantastic start — Tim (Mann) went over after a couple of minutes and Chris (Snelling) got a lovely breakaway try that probably took some of the sting out of their attacking play.
“We defended for periods of time when we had to and then got a couple of scores in the second half to take the game away from them.
“Defensively we were disciplined in the wide channels, because they wanted to move the ball a little wider, but we managed the offside line, got a lot of line speed and were patient in waiting for them to make a mistake so we could turn over the ball.”