Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club's head coach Nick Wakley is not focused on their finishing position in the league
A third straight win – 27-19 at bottom side Guernsey – may have left Bury St Edmunds only four points and two places off the top five, but Nick Wakley is not focusing on a club record finish.
The Wolfpack have never ended a campaign in the fourth tier higher than the sixth they achieved in their debut National League 2 South campaign in 2015/16.
But surpassing that is not something that head coach Wakley is actively targeting over the remaining 13 matches, which begins with Saturday’s trip to ninth-placed Barnes (2.30pm).
“When I came in, for me it was about trying to make the club safe and secure,” he said.
“There were fears about relegation and now we are looking up it is about aiming to build a platform for promotion.
“I am looking at combinations and performances and the style of rugby that will earn promotion next season.
“It would be nice to finish higher than sixth, and if the performances are still there that sort of milestone takes care of itself.
“I am not making a big deal of that. It is just a real focus on performances I am looking for, and records do not interest me at the minute.”
He was pleased with the five points they brought back from the long trip to Guernsey on their return to action, but said the players have been worked hard in training this week after not delivering the ‘complete performance’.
He explained: “We had passages at the start of the game where we played some excellent possession rugby, and we scored some good tries which could have been 15 or 16 phases which is really pleasing.
“I gave them a bit of a rollicking at half-time though, as I thought our discipline, particularly our maul defending, was keeping them in the game. So we knew we had to be whiter than white and we did, which was good.”
He highlighted Alex Davis as the stand-out performer at the weekend.
“He put in a huge shift,” he said. “He made more than 20 tackles in the first half and had an insatiable appetite which is what you want from a back row player.”
A squad showing 10 players either injured or unavailable had flown out the night before the fixture but made light of the difficult logistics to burst out of the blocks.
Sam Bixby powered his way over for the first score, converted by Cam Ritchie, before Alex Grey forced the ball down out wide for 12-0.
Slowly but surely the large Guernsey pack began to assert themselves and a try on 21 minutes for hooker Tom Ceilam dragged his side back into the contest.
A series of penalties culminated in a yellow card for Bixby, and Guernsey drew level with a converted try from a kick to the corner, via Ceilam again.
Bixby’s return coincided with Guernsey having a player sent to the bin for taking a man out in the air. Bury made their numerical advantage count as Will Scholes added to his impressive try tally with a score on the cusp of half-time for a 17-12 lead.
A purple patch at the start of the second half effectively sealed the contest for Bury as they ran in two quick tries, Jack Johnson’s first for the club and one for Finlay Sharp.
Guernsey ramped up the pressure but it was not until the 72nd minute when they cracked Bury’s defence again, with Elia Morisio’s converted try, which they were unable to add to before the final whistle.
Wakley revealed full-back Franco Catuogno has returned to his native Argentina for ‘personal reasons’ and may not be back until the end of March.