Bury St Edmunds secured their place in National League Division Two South for next season with a scrappy 27-15 win over relegation threatened Southend.
This was not Bury’s finest performance, far from it, but sometimes it is about results and Gavin Hogg’s men gained the five points they so desperately cherished to make a season of hard work so worthwhile.
Bury are not immune to trips down to south Essex and the likely reception that awaits, but they were met with a strangely subdued side and a crowd where the visitors more than outnumbered their rivals.
Chance therefore to secure the win so desperately needed, and within 10 minutes Bury had registered their first score. A penalty had allowed the Bury forwards the chance to catch and drive 15 metres and when the ball was spread wide Chris Lord had the easy option of putting Matt Hema in for the score.
Bury’s early confidence was quickly brought back down to earth when Southend scored their first try. There was more than a suspicion of obstruction on two occasions in the build up to Sonny Gay squeezing over in the corner, but no matter, referee Alexis Manly deemed the try worthy and Burr’s superb touchline conversion edged Southend ahead.
Bury looked the better side and as the 20 minute mark approached they declined a very kickable penalty at goal to go for a scrum.
The option proved correct, when after Maku and then Mann powered up to the line, Sean Stapleton bundled his way over from close range. Scott Lyle added the extras to make it 12–7 and a lead that Bury were never to surrender.
Brad Burr knocked over a penalty to close the gap but Bury, despite being a little laboured and predictable in their attacks, pushed the score out to 19-10, as number eight Maku made some hard yards down the middle of the park as Bury switched their point of attack freeing up Sterling, arguably Bury’s man of the match, to take a fine inside pass from Lord to saunter over.
Bury looked to be in complete control but on the stoke of half-time conceded their second try to throw the contest wide open again.
Pushing and pressing for the line, Bury made a hash of an attacking ruck and when the ball squirted out, Southend seized on the opportunity to swiftly counter attack. Quick hands put Gay in space and he sprinted 70 metres to score in the corner.
Burr could not add the extras and despite a long period of injury time, the teams headed for the changing rooms with Bury 19-15 in front.
A superb take by Josh Walker at the line out after five minutes set Bury on their way and a desperate midfield seemed happy to concede a penalty, which Scott Lyle duly punished after a minute later to make it 22–15 to the visitors.
Both teams had opportunities to get on the scoreboard, but it was Bury that extended their lead. Bury were stealing line outs at will but not able to convert possession into points.
Finally a strong Bury scrum allowed Lord and Peres to combine to go deep into Southend territory. Quick ball seemed certain to earn a try but cynical work by Walshe sent him to the sin bin and Bury awarded an attacking penalty.
This time Bury opted for the line out and a well organised catch and drive allowed Fijian Maku the easy option of driving over the line.
Lyle was unlucky to see his touchline conversion hit the post but no matter Bury led 27–15 and the bonus point had been secured.
Bury could not quite put the game to bed and despite trying to stretch Southend as much as possible, their enterprise was almost their undoing.
It was fast, it was exciting but it was loose an unstructured, not necessarily what was needed.
Bury had the match where they wanted it, in control, deep in the opposition’s half but they could not quite find the final killer touch to end the game as a contest.
Southend battled hard, but they never looked like breaking free to threaten the Bury line. Bury, for their efforts never got near what they are capable of as a side but at the start of the day the target was five points and it was job done.