Long-time Bury St Edmunds rugby coach Andy Herlihy reveals Jon Curry departure came as a 'bombshell' to most at the club
One of the trio of coaches charged with taking up the reins after Jon Curry’s departure at Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club ahead of the weekend’s home game admits it came as a ‘bombshell’ to them all.
Andy Herlihy, a club stalwart of 30 years at the Haberden who had been the fourth official, revealed the former Northampton Saints Academy coach’s tenure at the club being immediately terminated on the Thursday led to ‘a difficult 72 hours’ in the build-up to their eventual 36-22 defeat to mid-table Worthing.
“I guess for everyone at the club it came as a little bit of a surprise and a little bit of a bombshell,” he said. “But hey, we are in the professional game and you have to cut your cloth accordingly.
“The finances dictate we had to make a change and that is what has happened.”
Herlihy was far from thrown into an unfamiliar role in the dressing room, having been a director of rugby and head coach at the club on several previous occasions.
Along with South African coach Craig Burrows and former Ireland player Kevin Maggs, who has been assisting with coaching this season, the trio were named as the interim set-up to take the team forward.
“It has been a difficult 72 hours but the job is there to be done,” said Herlihy, who revealed he was not putting his name in the hat for a permanent leading role again.
“We didn’t have a huge amount of preparation time but I think the time we had we used well.
“We asked the players today to perform and give everything they could.
“I am satisfied they went into the game with the right attitude, energy and enthusiasm. But ultimately we paid for mistakes.”
It could not have been a worse start for the interim coaches as The Wolfpack shipped three tries inside the first 13 minutes as they became the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights, with a low strong sun in front of them perhaps not helping.
A simple catch-and-drive move following a penalty kick to the corner saw Henry Birch get the first down with less than four minutes on the clock, with Matthew McLean kicking the first of three coversions.
Following a passage of several unforced errors from the hosts which left the home crowd groaning, Thomas Miller was able to finish a swift move 10 minutes in.
Just three minutes later it got worse as Alex Basson was able to pick up a loose ball from within his own 22 and run the length of the pitch without trouble, producing a swallow-dive finish.
But Bury began to get their act together and, after sustained pressure, number 8 Yasin Brown broke from a 5m scrum in the 21st minute to get the hosts on the scoreboard, though Cameron Ritchie’s kick came back off the post.
It gave them some important momentum though and just past the half-hour mark they pulled it back to 21-12, with the scrum earning a penalty from which Ritchie took Connor Adams’ pass in his stride to go over under the posts and leave a simple conversion.
It was to be the pattern of the game though that every time the home crowd’s hopes were raised, Worthing were soon able to pour cold water on the situation.
Just three minutes after The Wolfpack’s second try, the Raiders hit back with prop Birch wriggling over from a ruck a metre short of the home line after good work by the pack.
Some poor handling early in the second half saw a promising break by Mark Kohler fail to yield any points for Bury.
But with Worthing having two players in the sin bin, the hosts eventually made their pressure pay with winger Kohler finishing in front of the clubhouse bar after a series of penalty scrums inside the Raiders’ 22. With Ritchie’s kick going just wide it left them nine points adrift on the scoreboard.
The next try was all important in determining the outcome but with the home crowd finding their voices in expectation, the Sussex side killed the game as a spectacle with two tries in three minutes from 65.
First, McClean was quickest to a grubber kick in the right-hand corner before swift hands put Jonathan Daw in down the left, both kicks going close to adding the extras as the score moved to 36-17.
Bury at least ended on a high with a fourth try bonus point five minutes from time as the forwards’ pressure from a 5m scrum told with replacement Jordan Coombes appearing to have got it down, with Ritchie’s rushed conversion under the posts somehow going awry.
Herlihy reflected: “Credit to the lads they got themselves right back into the game.
“There were a lot of positives for me. The scrum certainly is something we must highlight and we have to celebrate how good that was.
“Our line-outs were much improved today.
“I felt that when the players actually were disciplined and stuck to the game plan, in the short amount of time we have tried to instil into them, that we made good ground, we looked sharp and that we could play some decent rugby and we did. The two tries we scored in the first half showed that.
“I was just a little bit disappointed that we lacked composure again in the 22. I think we left a lot of points out there and we unfortunately allowed the opposition some soft easy tries.”
There is no fixture this weekend.
Bury: 15 Johnson, 14 Kholer, 13 Ritchie, 12 O’Reilly, 11 Wiltshire, 10 Affleck, 9 Adams, 1 Hill, 17 Robinson, 3 Cooper, 4 Graham, 5 Scholes, 6 Uru, 7 Watson, 8 Browne. Replacements: Coombes, Argerich, Smith, Button, Taylor.