NATIONAL LEAGUE TWO SOUTH: Bury St Edmunds 25 Worthing 11
After an error-strewn first half at the breakdown Bury were able to find another gear to open up Worthing as the second half progressed to secure a bonus point victory that saw them move up two places to 10th in the table.
Hooker Beau Gibson replied to the visitor’s opening try and then added another in a smart move before further scores came from wingers Sam Goatley and Chris Snelling to seal back-to-back wins at the Greene King IPA Haberden.
Worthing travelled from Sussex on the back of consecutive defeats but three places above Bury (9th) after six games.
With both sides’ default gameplan to use the strength in their backs and play the ball out wide, a free-flowing high-scoring contest was anticipated.
But the first half was anything but, as the match became a war of attrition in the breakdown with the hosts clearly frustrated at their inability to prevent referee David Clarkson from repeatedly penalising them.
Gavin Hogg’s side had started promisingly in the opening few minutes though, with Goatley bursting through on a storming run from the first scrum, before suffering from a lack of support and knocking on 10 metres from the try line.
Snelling was next to pierce a fragile looking Worthing defence from a swift counter, but although his pass sent Chris Lord scampering through to touch down, the whistle had already gone to signal a forward pass.
As the quarter-of-an-hour came up, centre Tim Mann, who had passed a late fitness test, set up Bury’s first kick at goal after making a great interception and his subsequent run, which lacked the pace to finish, was halted illegally from an offside position. It was an easy kick for Lord, who put Bury 3-0 ahead.
Despite this it was the Suffolk side who were guilty of conceding too many penalties after looking a distinct second best at the set piece, with Sean O’Hagan putting his first sight of goal wide before levelling on the scoreboard with his second straight long-range effort on the half hour.
There was little of note happening until the stroke of half-time when O’Hagan was presented with another opportunity to kick at the posts, and he landed it to send his side in with a 6-3 lead in what was a forgettable half for the home crowd.
The second period continued in much the same turgid vein with it only taking Worthing seven minutes to extend their lead to 13-3 with their forwards profiting from a 5m scrum in the right-hand corner, with number eight Liam Perkins going over. The tricky angle got the better of O’Hagan as the two extras were not added.
With the crowd sensing Bury were not going to get their act together, Snelling landed a massive tackle inside Worthing’s 22 which had the effect of galvanising the hosts while also stirring the home support.
Worthing brought on two replacements in their front row which seemed to give Bury an opportunity to redress their inferior position in the scrum.
A key point in the match then occurred when Lord opted to kick to touch from a kickable penalty 15 minutes after the restart that would have taken the hosts to within a score of their opponents.
They immediately got another chance to profit from a penalty moments later, and again opted to kick to touch, with the decision soon justified when New Zealander Gibson dived over for a pushover uncoverted try, with Lord’s scuffed effort leaving them trailing 11-8.
It only took another five minutes for a revitalised Bury to get themselves back into the lead with number eight Matt Edison spotting an opportunity to run through a gap before offloading to Gibson to finish, though Lord’s conversion again faltered.
O’Hagan went close with a difficult penalty from 40m which would have brought Worthing to within two points.
But their hopes of overturning the deficit were hit by a yellow card for Sam Hewick with just 10 minutes to play as he illegally held Bury up 5m short.
Skipper Josh Walker opted for a scrum and from the third reset the hosts had the Haberden jumping for joy when Goatley finished in the fifth phase for 18-11 with replacement David Graham putting the conversion attempt wide.
With only a score in it, any lingering doubts were settled a minute from time when Snelling demonstrated his blistering pace after intercepting and running half the length of the field to follow his own kick before diving on the ball to bring up the bonus point fourth try.
This time the two extra points were added as Graham kicked true for 25-11 in what started off a frustrating afternoon but ended up in a pleasing victory, and one in which young Luke Palmer, formerley of St Joseph’s College, made his senior bow in the second half.
The result ultimately hinged on which side were able to bring their A-game in the backs to the table first, with Hogg’s men eventually profiting.
Bury: 1 Collins, 2 Gibson, 3 Reid, 4 Gleeson, 5 Walker (cpt), 6 Davey, 7 Stapleton, 8 Edison, 9 Le Roy, 10 Affleck, 11 Snelling, 12 Meyers, 13 Mann, 14 Goatley, 15 Lord. Replacements: 16 Bixby, 17 Haward, 18 Palmer, 19 Graham, 20 Marshall.
* For a post-match video interview with Bury’s playing chairman Terry Sands, log on to this website on Monday from 1pm, while you can read an interview with two-try hooker Gibson in Friday’s print edition of the Bury Free Press.