NATIONAL LEAGUE TWO SOUTH: Bury St Edmunds 20 Worthing 10
Bury St Edmunds got back to winning ways by overcoming a physical Worthing side at the Greene King IPA Haberden this afternoon.
Winger Jacob Bodkin, on his debut, and centre Sam Stirling got the hosts’ only tries of the game in a four-minute spell before the half-way point of the opening period, with the Wolfpack unable to turn their superior territory into further scores.
But, just like the first home game, against Clifton, the second half saw the visitors do all the pressing with a dogged defensive display keeping them at bay until a late try put Worthing within seven points.
There was to be no nervy finish though, as Liam McBride, on his home debut, held his nerve with a crucial penalty.
With Pierre Peres still out with an ankle injury, Sailasa Vunivesilevu made his home debut at scrum-half while fellow Fijian Makulusio Koroiyadi was back at the club after his spell during the second half of last season with the number eight among the replacements.
Flanker David Mciklethwaite, who had made a positive impact as a replacement in the disappointing 36-7 defeat at Bishop’s Stortford last weekend, was rewarded with a start while Connor O’Reilly, like Bodkin recruited from Woodbridge over the summer, was poised for his debut from the bench..
Bury survived an early maul close to their line when Worthing were penalised and the visitors missed the chance to take the lead when Mathew Mclean kicked a straight penalty wide.
A surging run from Shaq Meyers, back in the centres, proved the catalyst for the home side to register the game’s first try 12 minutes in.
From the ruck Vunivesilevu started off a move through swift hands to the right wing ending with Michael Mellet playing in former Woodbridge player Bodkin to run over. McBride, who had struggled with his kicking in his debut at Bishop’s Stortford, did well to put a tricky conversion over.
Bury doubled their lead in the 16th minute when, following a scrum midway into their opponents’ half, Sterling suddenly burst through a gap in the midfield with a strong drive for the line seeing him hold off a late tackle. McBride put his simple kick over for 14-0.
Raiders got on the scoreboard three minute later when Mclean made no mistake this time from a long-range penalty after Sam Bixby had been called up for holding on.
The Wolfpack, who had seen their lineout falter, responded by putting more pressure on their opponents’ line but without being able to make it count.
The nearest they came was when another strong Meyers run saw Mellet released down the left but the summer signing was pulled up just before the try-line with lock James Arthur sent to the sin-bin for his dangerous tackle.
McBride took full advantage of a 37th minute penalty from long-range to extend Bury’s lead to 17-3 with the hosts asking all the questions as the half ended.
Gavin Hogg’s side began the second half where they had left off but missed the chance to get another score on the board when Sterling dropped the ball from a promising move.
Worthing, carrying the advantage of a heavier pack, began enforcing a forward-dominated approach on the game which saw them force Bury back into their own half.
Findlay Coxon-Smith managed to break through only to drop the ball just short of the line.
A period of seemingly relentless pressure began inside Bury’s 10-metre line which saw them having to hold out a man down after Scotland Sevens international Darren Gillespie was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on.
The Wolfpack’s rearguard held firm under heavy pressure until 13 minutes from time when Mclean chased his own grubber kick down the right wing and just managed to touch it down in time. His conversion left the visitors with the smell of a comeback in their nostrils at 17-10.
It only seemed to spur Bury into action though as they broke out of their own half to apply the pressure at the other end.
In the 76th minute a penalty was awarded to the home side around 30 metres from goal, with the sensible decision taken to go for the three points to put the game realistically out of reach.
McBride kept his perfect kicking performance on the day going to the relief of the home crowd.
Bury almost added some icing on the cake with a third try but Sterling again dropped a pass, after Worthing had gifted possession with their own careless handling.
It was a welcome return to winning ways for the Wolfpack who ended Worthing’s perfect start.
BURY: 15 Lord, 14 Bodkin, 13 Sterling, 12 Meyers, 11 Mellet, 10 McBride, 9 Vunivesilevu, 1 Griffiths, 2 Collins (cpt), 3 Bingham, 4 Bixby, 5 Edison, 6 Sapleton, 7 Micklethwaite, 8 Gillespie. Replacements: Plamer, Painter, Makulusio, O’Reilly, Anderson-Brown.
Man of The Match: Vunivesilevu.
* Log on to this website from 1pm Monday for video reaction from director of rugby Gavin Hogg.