Bury St Edmunds 12
Louis Whetton described Saturday’s dramatic last-gasp win against Barnes as one of the most enjoyable games he has ever played in.
The son of former New Zealand captain Gary Whetton made his home debut for the Wolfpack in a contest which only saw one try and was decided by the very last kick.
Scott Lyle sent the home crowd wild with his successful penalty, which saw Bury St Edmunds move into the top half of the table after putting back-to-back wins together for the first time this season.
And lock Whetton thanked the impact of The Haberden crowd, who braved the wet and cold conditions to spur them on in a tight and tense 80 minutes.
“It was a pretty outstanding crowd for how average the weather was,” said the 22-year-old, who signed on a two-year contract from North Harbour last month.
“I loved it. It was one of my favourite games I have ever played in for the atmosphere and everything.
“They were very good on the defence and stopped us from scoring throughout, but it was just a good physical game and I loved it.
“It was very important to get the back-to-back wins and hopefully we can get another good home crowd next week and bring it again.”
And with Whetton having only undergone surgery on his knee nine weeks ago, he has said the Bury fans are yet to see him at his best.
“I’ve still got a bit to go,” he said. “My knee is all good but I have just got to get that match fitness.
“This was now my second full game in a row and I usually blow around the 60-minute mark, but I am getting there.”
With fly-half Liam McBride (hamstring) not fit from the injury he incurred playing for The Netherlands, performance director Terry Sands and director of rugby Gavin Hogg kept faith with the players who had seen them return to winning ways at Exmouth, meaning there was no place in the squad for Matt Edison.
Against a side who they had let fly into a 20-3 lead inside 20 minutes before their comeback in Suffolk in their last meeting in March, the hosts were determined not to make the same mistake again.
The first 12 minutes saw the Wolfpack camped in Barnes’ half, but they were unable to get on the scoreboard, despite Tom Rock managing to spin his way through their backline.
Barnes began to put some phases together of their own and used the strength of their pack to score the opening try in the 22nd minute.
After a quick-tap penalty saw the West London outfit kick to the corner, a catch-and-drive move ended with Rupert Crossland grounding the ball under a pile of bodies. Full-back Tom O’Toole added the conversion.
Barnes looked all set to add to their score soon after, having created a good overlap on the left wing, but James Hersey dropped the final pass in the slippery conditions.
With their early impetus lost, Bury were having to soak up the pressure, and it took some smart defending from Chris Lord, making up the ground to dive on a loose ball before clearing, to keep mid-table Barnes from running in a second before the break.
Bury emerged for the second period having changed into their away shirts, and it was as if a new side had taken to the field as they immediately applied pressure on their opponents’ half with a new steely determination in their play.
It resulted in the Wolfpack bringing up their first points on the scoreboard within three minutes when Lyle was able to put a straight penalty kick over from 35 metres out.
Bury kept up the early momentum and were rewarded with a second penalty just before the hour mark, after Barnes were penalised for going off their feet. Lyle put over from just outside the 22 to claw the deficit back to a point at 7-6.
Three minutes later, Lyle was presented with a kick to put Bury ahead, but agonizingly saw his attempt cannon off the left-hand post.
With Bury still asking all the questions in their opponent’s half, Lyle did not make the same mistake again from his next opportunity three minutes later, with his kick following a high tackle putting Bury 9-7 ahead with 12 minutes to play.
But there were groans from the home crowd as a naive infringement at a scrum in front of their posts with six minutes to go saw O’Toole put the visitors back into the lead.
With a point in it, Lyle looked to have missed his chance to become the hero when putting wide with a 40-metre attempt.
But there was to be a fairytale end for the home side, who, after stringing 21 phases together in Barnes’ half, worked one last lineout across the pitch before the referee called back play for a penalty for side entrance at the ruck.
With The Haberden falling silent, Lyle measured up before delivering the killer blow.
BURY: 1 Trinder, 2 Collins (c), 3 Griffiths, 4 Whetton, 5 Turner, 6 Enoka, 7 Micklethwaite, 8 Gillespie, 9 Addison, 10 Peres, 11 Lord, 12 Rock, 13 Meyers, 14 Snelling, 15 Lyle. Replacements: Selby, Palmer, Stapleton, Hall, Sterling.
Free Press Man of The Match: Toby Trinder.