LONDON & SOUTH EAST
Bury St Edmunds 72
He promised to turn up the style, and Gavin Hogg certainly delivered on that as Bury ran up their biggest score of the season on Saturday.
If there was a perfect performance to intimidate Barnes ahead of what is now a shot at clinching the title and promotion in their challenger’s back yard after the Easter break, this was it.
From the first minute until the last there was no let up, with every man seemingly on their game, creating the effect of a well-oiled machine cruising towards the finish line, with this victory guaranteeing at least second place and a play-off spot.
“I think we have probably had that performance in us for a few weeks now, with the pitches hardening up and conditions therefore looking in our favour,” said beaming director of rugby Hogg.
“If you have the game wrapped up at half-time, the easy thing to do is take your foot off the gas in the second half. But we said to the guys it was an opportunity to show how ruthless we were going to be as a side and credit to them, it was just a really unselfish performance.
“We had forwards that were hitting breakdowns and the set piece functioned superbly and that allows you to reap the rewards as a team.”
Scrum-half James Stevenson-Wright, second row Sam Bixiby and centre Tim Mann all took two tries apiece with eight players touching down during a game that was totally one-way traffic against an injury-ravaged mid-table Chichester side, who had narrowly won the reverse fixture.
But it was the way they defended from the front that also left Hogg with utter contentment at the final whistle, which was made even sweeter when the 17-9 non-bonus point win by Barnes at Amersham and Chiltern left them knowing just one win from their remaining two games is all that is now required to seal the step up with clinching the championship.
“I am absolutely delighted — the nil part of the scoreboard is absolutely fantastic as well. We know that is not an easy achievement at this level,” said the Bury chief.
“It was a proper team performance. The forwards laid the platform for what we did and it was fantastic to see some of the guys out wide running a few nice scores.
“Credit to the boys, they turned it on from minute one to minute 80.”
The game had started with an early setback for the hosts though, with play stopped for several minutes for the previous week’s sole try scorer, Loma Kivalu, to receive treatment for a knee injury, with the end result being the influential prop having to call it a day before he had even got going with Connor Adams replacing him.
But it was to be a mere blip on a day of plain sailing for Hogg’s side, who got their noses in front from that very first foray into Chichester’s half when a pick and drive move resulted in Stevenson-Wright going over the whitewash inside seven minutes. Kicking into a head wind, Tom Bird was to miss the first of two attempts to add a conversion.
With the visitors unable to mount an attack, a sweeping move from left to right set the platform for the second seven minutes later, with prop Luke Beales emerging triumphant following a ruck almost on the try line.
Stevenson-Wright grabbed his second with only a little over a third of the game gone, making it 17-0 after Bird’s conversion, being made by Beau Gibson’s perfectly executed overhead pass on half way.
A bonus point fourth converted try was secured just before the half hour mark through Mann, after the ball was smartly worked towards the posts following a lineout on the left.
But a shell-shocked Chichester, who had hooker Joe Shopland sin-binned, were made to suffer even further before the break as replacement Adams scored a push-over unconverted fifth for 29-0.
Any thoughts there would be a let-up after the break, or a visitors’ revival, were quashed within four minutes when Bixby running in down the right for a converted score, with the same player instrumental in Gibson adding his name to the scorers soon after for 43-0.
The try of the match followed next as Michael Sage jinxed his way through after Bixby had offloaded following a great dummied pass by Jesse Rush to bring up 50-0 with Bird’s conversion.
George Bretag-Norris scored a forwards try and Bixby got his second after a great throw over by Rush, in-between Bird landing a long penalty.
The last action of the game saw it stretched to 72-0 as Mann ran through following a great interception on half-way and Bird added the extras once again to finish a great day in front of their home fans.