Bury Saints boost play-off aspirations

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Bury Saints head coach Christian Cantrill heaped praise on his side after watching his players extend their unbeaten start to the campaign.

Saints defeated second-placed Kent Exiles 41-14 on an overcast day in Thetford.

An ecstatic Cantrill said: “It was a great all around effort in all phases of the game.

“I was impressed with Francis Hughes, who led the offence and managed the game well.

“I was overjoyed to hear that at half-time we had made 250 yards on the ground and our goal was 400 for the game so we only just came up short.

“The defence is really coming into their own at a critical point of our season as we start to push towards the hopeful play-off spot this team has worked so hard for.”

Francis Hughes, replacing Fred Boyle who suffered concussion in the Saints’ previous encounter, immediately made his mark, hooking up with Joe Hill for an 11-yard touchdown with Rob Giles adding the extra point.

Early in the second quarter, Hughes picked out Will Awadjie for another touchdown and Giles added another point.

Troy Cockerill stepped in front of an errant Kent pass and ran the interception back for a breathtaking 81 yards for a score with Giles extending the score to 21-0.

The Kent Exiles reduced the arrears before Cory Jenkins added a 71-yard touchdown.

Derek White continued the scoring with a five-yard plunge before the visitors rallied to make it 34-14.

Chris May broke loose for a late 30-yard touchdown to seal victory.

Giles added another PAT and finished the game with five out of six kicks.

The story of the day was the incredible ground game of the Saints, who gained 371 yards on a stout Kent defence.

The Saints’ defence once again suffocated their opponents on the back of a great game plan by defensive co-ordinator Neil Van Holland, assisted by coaches Sydney Melton and David Hobbs.

The stand-out performers were Trent Myers with 12 tackles and Jack Hewitt with 11, but the Most Valuable Player had to be Cockerill with two interceptions and a key tackle to stop a drive.

Chris Smith also had an interception, as did Rob Giles, to push his season total to four (three in the last two games).

The Saints next travel to Brighton on Sunday, July 10, before hosting Colchester a week later.

Cantrill said: “We have a tough test to travel down to Brighton in a few weeks to take on last year’s semi-final classic game participants Sussex Thunder and they are always a tough match-up.

“But for now the fellas have earned a much deserved rest.”