SSE NATIONAL LEAGUE
THREE LONDON AND SOUTH EAST
Bury St Edmunds 30
Old Elthamians 36
Will Martin was left in an optimistic mood despite Bury St Edmunds suffering a narrow defeat in their National League bow.
In a topsy-turvy encounter at The Haberden, Gavin Hogg’s charges came inches away from victory, turning a 27-9 deficit at the break around, before ultimately succumbing to their visitors late on.
However, Martin, who impressed with 18 points himself — including scoring the try that brought the sides level to set up a grandstand finish — refused to be disappointed with the club’s first showing at national level.
“We made three mistakes all game and were punished,” he said. “Remove one of those mistakes and we would have won the game.
“They are a good side, but nothing special and I genuinely feel we could have won the game.
“We came inches from winning the game at the very end, but just couldn’t force the ball over the line and so we are all happy with our display.
“It was our first match of National League rugby and there were a few nerves, but we weren’t embarrassed by any means.
“To lose by six points to a side that came sixth last year is a good showing from us and hopefully this will set us up for the rest of the season — I’m more than confident we can compete strongly this season.”
Anything other than defeat seemed a far-fetched possibility in the first 15 minutes as the hosts’ nerves were clear to see as the visitors raced into a 21-0 lead with three unanswered converted tries, courtesy of Renford Bennett (two) and James Lindfield, Tom White kicking the extras.
After getting to grips with the central battle in the middle of the field, Bury began to enjoy more of the ball and reduced the deficit as Martin successfully struck a penalty through the bars.
White reinstated the 21-point advantage with a penalty of his own, the first of three before the interval, with another successful strike from Martin sandwiched between, to leave Old Elthamians well in control at the break with the score standing at 27-9.
However, Bury came out with renewed vigour after the interval and found a way back into the encounter just five minutes after the restart.
After a period of pressure, the ball got sent out wide to Phil Gouldie, who managed to bundle his way over in the corner, Martin successfully adding the conversion from the angle to reduce the deficit to 27-16.
A lapse in concentration and discipline allowed the visitors to add another three points to the board with a simple penalty before Bury kick-started their fightback.
First Martin broke through the field, beating four players before offloading to hooker Beau Gibson to force his way through the centre, giving Martin an easy conversion from in front of the posts.
With 20 minutes remaining and the vociferous home crowd now fully behind them, Bury began to sense a possibility of victory and drew themselves level as a masterful kick from Tanimo Samoa released Martin beyond the visitors’ static backline to touch the ball down, followed by another simple kick to leave the score at 30-30.
Martin narrowly missed the opportunity to put Bury ahead for the first time, kicking a 45-yard penalty agonisingly wide of the posts, before a lapse in concentration in the hosts’ defence was punished.
White was handed a simple kick from the centre of the posts to give his side a narrow three-point lead before he executed an inch-perfect drop goal to take the points advantage to six.
With seconds remaining, Bury pushed the visitors back onto their own line, but ultimately could not find a way through as Old Elthamians held firm to take victory.