SSE NATIONAL THREE LONDON AND SOUTH EAST: Westcombe Park 30 Bury St Edmunds 29: Bury failed to gain revenge on Westcombe Park for a loss at The Haberden earlier in the season as a late penalty condemned them to defeat.
Their five-game unbeaten run looked to be extending to six when Sam Bixby scored a try early in the second half to make it 29-13.
Instead, it slipped agonisingly from Bury’s grip in the second half as a fired-up home side chipped away at the lead, getting themselves ahead with just six minutes to go.
Even then, Bury had the chance to snatch the game back when they mounted a series of close-quarter drives for the line.
Referee Jack Lewers indicated Bury had a penalty advantage, but when the ball was lost four phases later, he blew for full-time rather than a penalty under the posts.
Skipper Matt Edison was rested, along with youngsters Charlie Pask and Jamie Cooke, while there was a debut for Culford School’s Malcolm Osando and further game time handed to the returning George Stokes, who is on the mend from injury.
Having fallen behind to an early penalty, Bury went into a lead they would not relinquish until six minutes from time when Dan Garrard’s break set Chris Snelling free to score in the corner.
Bury scored their second try on 21 minutes when Bury a scrum against the head close to the hosts’ line and number eight Logan Dodds powered over.
Jesse Rush added the extras to make it 12-3 and this advantage was extended further when Garrard intercepted a speculative pass and raced 60 metres to touch down unchallenged, with Rush again on target with the conversion.
In a seesaw end to the first half, Park scored two unconverted tries, while Bury earned a bonus point — which would be added to by their losing bonus point — with a brilliant score in between.
Westcombe Park hooker Reece Conlon was turned over from a lineout deep in Bury’s half and a pre-planned backs move saw Rush run around on the loop and Casey Stone sear through a gaping hole to tee up Tanimo Samoa on his shoulder.
The Suffolk side extended their lead to 29-13 when Ben Radmall, Beau Gibson, Sean Davies and Aaron Waters all made inroads into the hosts’ defence before Bixby squeezed over in the corner for an unconverted try.
The points seemed to be heading back up the M11, but Westcombe Park rolled up their sleeves and dug in to gain a vital victory in their battle against relegation.
Superb Bury defence looked to be doing the business, but a moment of magic by left wing Tom Gray changed the complexion of the match as he burst through three tackles to set up a converted try, bringing the home team within nine points.
A series of penalties awarded against Bury seemed to point to an inevitable yellow card, but when it came it was the unfortunate Tim Mann — who was offside but trying to keep out of the way of play — punished and sent to the bin.
Park took advantage of their additional numbers to power over and the conversion brought the hosts within two points.
With the influential Dodds having to be replaced, the 14 Bury men’s cause was not helped further when Samoa was controversially shown a yellow card for a high tackle.
The resultant penalty was kicked and took Wectombe Park in front with just six minutes remaining.
Bury refused to accept defeat and launched that final attack, but — having had so many decisions go against them in the second half — it was heart breaking not to be given the final penalty as they laid siege to the Park line.