NATIONAL LEAGUE TWO SOUTH: Bury St Edmunds 29 Cornish All Blacks 26
They may have made the long trip to Suffolk without a win this season, but Cornish All Blacks left with their heads held high after pushing Bury all the way in an absorbing encounter in the wintery conditions at The Haberden this afternoon.
The league’s bottom side were clearly buoyed by their first point of the season, which came after in a 17-17 draw at home to Southend Saxons the previous week, quickly pulling back the hosts’ early pick-and-drive try through man mountain Ben Cooper with captain Richard Friend’s score in the 11th minute.
Bury, playing into a strong wind after the heavy rain had ceased, got their noses back in front after Luke Palmer broke through the defence for his first try for the Wolfpack, while young debutant Scott Lyle kicked his first conversion for his new side.
Back came the Launceston-based outfit though, with second row Ben Hilton grounding from a rolling maul before Fraser Honey, who had trained with Bury throughout the summer, converted via a drop kick after the wind had knocked the ball off the tee.
The vistitors then gained the lead for the first time, with hooker Jamie Salter touching down to take advantage from a penalty which saw Ben Davey join Sam Bixby in the sin bin as the hosts were reduced to 13 men, Honey adding the conversion for 19-12.
A sustained rally at the end of the half saw Bury close the gap to two points as 10 phases of play in the All Blacks’ 22 were halted just short of the line with the referee signalling for Honey, some way clear of play, to be the next in the sin bin.
From the penalty the ball was shipped wide left and it looked like Matt Hema was going to run clear, but he slipped. Bury still managed to hold on to possession through and worked the ball to the left-hand corner where flanker Sam Bixby got the ball down for an unconverted try.
The home crowd were soon jumping for joy in the second half as centre Sam Goatley got their side back in front and secured a fourth try bonus point within four minutes of the restart, Lyle adding the conversion for 24-19.
John Hall’s pushover try stretched the lead to 10 points, but it soon became clear it was not to be a procession to the final whistle as the visitors set up a tenses finish by eventually securing a converted try through Friend after a dominant 20 minute spell.
With just three points in the game there were hearts in mouths in the Haberden crowd when Bury conceded possession with another penalty, with the incident on half-way, halting scrum-half Adam Marshall running clear, provoking booing towards the whistle-happy referee, who had issued no less than five yellow cards (three to Bury).
But the hosts’ defence, which had looked strong at times, despite the amount of tries conceded, held firm to turn over the ball and play out the remaining minute to record back-to-back league victories following last week’s success at Barnes.
Bury: 1 Palmer, 2 Collins, 3 Cooper, 4 Hall, 5 Walker (cpt), 6 Gleeson, 7 Bixby, 8 Edison, 9 Marshall, 10 Affleck, 11 Hema, 12 Meyers, 13 Goatley, 14 Snelling, 15 Lyle. Replacements: Stapleton, Bingham, Reid, Davey, Lord.
* For a video of John Hall’s try, Bury’s fifth, and a post-match interview with director of rugby Gavin Hogg, log onto this website from 1pm on Monday.