Bury St Edmunds almost halved the deficit of their defeat at St Albans at the Greene King IPA Haberden this afternoon, but still found Old Albanians too hot to handle in the icy conditions.
Gavin Hogg’s side suffered their biggest defeat of the season in Hertfordshire, losing 46-11 in September, but managed to reduce that 35 point deficit to 19 in Suffolk, in a game which survived the cold snap after a morning pitch inspection.
Centre Scott Lyle gave another strong home crowd (almost 500) hope with his swallow dive over the line putting Bury 7-3 ahead.
It came after the hosts’ decision to scrummage rather than kick for three points proved to be the right one as Shaq Meyers cut through the leaders’ backline before offloading to Lyle.
But the league leaders replied with two tries in seven minutes to pull clear into a 16-7 lead, with their playing head coach, fly-half James Shanahan, who was recently playing in the Championship with Plymouth Albion and managed England Counties, adding another on the stroke of half-time for a 21-7 lead.
The Wolfpack had proved in their last home game that they were capable of overturning a 20 point deficit, which gave at least a glimmer of hope for the shivering home crowd.
But that was soon quashed 10 minutes after the re-start as centre Chris Lombaard went over in the left-hand corner to bring up the fourth try and the bonus point for the visitors.
There was a prolonged spell where the scoreboard operator, who had not been able to get things working in the first half, was untroubled as Bury’s defence held firm while their forays forward were halted inside Old Albanian’s 22-metre line.
But the visitors eventually added to their score with their fifth try in the final 10 minutes, James Speirs taking Shanahan’s offload in his stride to go over in the right-hand corner for 26-7, full-back Matt Gallagher continuing his bad run with a terribly miss-kicked conversion attempt.
The Wolfpack showed they were not prepared to lick their wounds though and came back with their second try, substitute Sean Stapleton forcing a try from five metres out after spinning off a maul, that was only confirmed after the referee consulted with his assistant.
Home captain Josh Walker was heard screaming ‘two more, we just need two more, nothing more matters’ but the bonus point proved elusive with no more scores before the final whistle sounded.
The result sees Bury drop two places to 12th, with next week’s opponents Canterbury (away 3pm) level on points with them (36) but ahead in 11th on points difference.
So tight is the middle of the table though that Gavin Hogg’s side could jump up to eighth with a bonus point win next weekend.
* For a post-match video interview with Scott Lyle, log on to this website on Monday from 1pm, while for a preview to Saturday’s game, see Friday’s Bury Free Press print edition.
Bury St Edmunds: 1 Cook, 2 Gibson, 3 Reid, 4 Edison, 5 Walker (c), 6 Bixby, 7 Enoka, 8 Kidson, 9 Marshall, 10 Traynor, 11 Snelling, 12 Meyers, 13 Lyle, 14 Goatley, 15 Affleck. Replacements: 16 Stapleton, 17 Collins, 18 Bingham, 19 Hall, 20 Mann.
Free Press Man of The Match: Mark Kidson
Referee: Neil Chilvers