NATIONAL LEAGUE TWO SOUTH: Chinnor 28 Bury St Edmunds 27
Oxfordshire side Chinnor are guaranteed a play-off place but still entertain hopes of gaining automatic promotion. However, on Saturday they were fortunate to escape with a victory after Bury had led for 75 minutes.
Bury can feel pretty aggrieved that all their endeavours were not rewarded with a famous scalp. Yes, Chinnor had the edge in the scrum and used it as their primary attacking weapon, but four yellows and 2 penalty tries awarded against the visitors was hard to stomach.
The Bury players, all 20 were used, put in a real shift against much larger opponents and can at least take solace in bringing two points home.
Bury were in the face of the hosts from the off and when Chinnor laboured the ball away from the first scrum, Mark Kohler intercepted and raced 50m away to score by the sticks after just three minutes.
If that was a good start it just got better eight minutes later! Sam Bixby was to the fore in gaining turn overs and when another turn over was won, King, Mitchell and Ashby in turn made good ground to get Bury into the 22. Bury remained calm recycled well and put Ross over in the corner for 12–0 in as many minutes.
Chinnor were stunned but they decided to go to strength to get back into the game. A series of catch and drives culminated in a penalty try being awarded and Yas Browne being shown a yellow for his part in pulling the maul down.
Bury refused to be put off their stride and they never allowed Chinnor to properly clear their lines after the restart.
The hosts were penalised for jumping early at a lineout and off darted Ashby. Kohler received the ball 12m out and farce reigned when his delicate kick through was missed by one defender and fumbled by another to allow him to drop down on the ball for a second score. Honey’s fine conversion made it 19–7 and that lead was extended when he knocked over a penalty after a high tackle was finally punished.
For the last 10 minutes of the half Chinnor again when back to strength.
A couple of dubious penalties gave them an attacking scrum position 18m out and a series of scrums ensued, with the referee marching Bury 10m back at one point to put them under the posts and sure enough the Chinnor No 8 was able to get the ball down amongst a morass of players.
Half-time: Chinnor 14 Bury 22
The Falcons got off to a positive start to the second half and again a string of penalties were awarded against Bury which allowed them to camp on the Bury line.
Scrums were taken, Bury creaked, a yellow was shown to Kohler for midfield offside, and then finally the hosts rumbled over from close range to make it 22–21 after Bentley’s fine conversion.
Bury’s luck was typified shortly after the restart when a long down field kick by Chinnor was deemed to have been knocked on by Honey. Again, Chinor revelled in trying to turn the screw at the scrum. Bury defended for their lives and managed to survive the 10 minutes without conceding.
Kohler’s return helped get Bury going forward and they were unlucky to concede a penalty for driving into their own men after once again winning the lineout.
It really did seem to be not their day as they tried to hang onto their slender lead.
Referee Collins once again punished Bury for high tackles and off sides when it seemed Chinnor could do no wrong.
When Bury got the ball they always looked dangerous and King, Honey and Ashby combined to almost grab Bury’s fourth try but the final pass to Kohler just bounced forward.
Chinnor kicked down field, hounded Bury into conceding a scrum and this time Sam Bixby was shown a yellow for allegedly kicking the ball out of a wheeling scrum.
The inevitable catch-and-drive score seemed certain but this time the referee spotted obstruction by the home forwards and gave Bury the chance to escape. The penalty was kicked to almost half-way. The lineout was won and then the Wolfpack gave the Falcons a dose of their own medicine; driving the ball fully 20 metres. Playing with a penalty advantage, Bury declined the chance to kick at goal, but kept running the ball. Ashby’s alertness saw him scoot down the blind side and found Will Scholes home alone on the left wing. The lock cantered home and tried to get closer to the posts.
The bonus point-earning fourth try in the bag but crucially Honey missed a reasonably straight forward conversion. Had the kick gone over, it would have meant Chinnor needing to score twice to win with nine minutes left. Instead they only trailed by six points and had the chance still to win!
Chinnor won the restart and again Bury were penalised for offside. The ball was kicked to the corner and back to square one with Chinnor trying to drive over.
Ashby was the fourth Bury player to be shown yellow as a desperate defence tried to stop the inevitable score.
The bigger Chinnor forwards drove and drove again and although it looked like a score would happen in the corner, referee Collins ran under the posts to award the penalty try and a one point lead. Heartbreaking!
Still Bury refused to accept their fate and with just seconds remaining the 14 men made one last push. The Wolfpack edged their way over half way and into the Chinnor 22.
It seemed for all the world that Bury were setting up a drop goal attempt for Fraser Honey, but when the ball came back to him the ball was instead sent wide but a sloppy pass forced a Bury knock on.
Chinnor won the resulting scrum and gleefully kicked the ball into the stands for a nervy win.
The result seemed so harsh on the battling Bury players. They had put in a real shift, played for 40 minutes with 14 men and seen two penalty tries awarded against them yet still came oh-so close to the win.
The players can take tremendous heart from this performance and can look forward to welcoming champions-elect Cinderford to The Habereden next Saturday.
* For reaction to the defeat and a preview to the weekend’s game, see Friday’s Bury Free.