Coach Johnstone left frustrated after early lead is lost

Rugby League Conference East regional action between Sudbury Gladiators and Bury Titans
Rugby League Conference East regional action between Sudbury Gladiators and Bury Titans
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Sudbury Gladiators 36 Bury Titans 26

by Russell Claydon

at Great Cornard Sports Centre

AN inability to make decisions under pressure cost the Titans dear in their first ever derby with Sudbury, according to head coach Paul Johnstone.

The Bury chief, formerly with what is now Harlequins, cut a frustrated figure as he watched his side throw away a 16-0 lead before a spirited fightback saw them fall 10 points short.

Quick hands and good tactical decisions from Gladiators in the second half proved Titans’ undoing, as the league leaders found another gear.

After being offside from their own kick-off, in blustery conditions, Bury’s first foray forward yielded a converted try, with Ryuchi Kalaguchi going over from close range and Fabio Ogunfouors kicking over, before he was the first of a series of injuries.

Despite Gladiators having most of the territory it was Titans who stole a 10-0 lead, with Chris Kent capitalising on Sudbury touching down in their own try area under pressure, giving Titans ball five metres out.

Sean Davis extended Bury’s lead to 16-0, bundling over on the right before Ben Smith converted.

But with four minutes of normal time remaining in the half, Gladiators found a foothold in the game, Mitch Swigg going over after extended pressure, converted by Mark Watkins and Stuart Whybrow pulling the score back to 16-12 with a further converted try on the stroke of half-time.

In the second half Sudbury demonstrated the power and pace which has seen them rise to the top of the table, taking seven minutes to take the lead through Whybrow, converted by Watkins.

Swiggs then treated the crowd to a scintillating run from half-way in Gladiators’ first set to go through for 24-16, after Watkins had added two from the kick.

But Bury weren’t ready to roll over and clawed back to within a try when Josh Walker finished off their first real attack of the half 17 minutes in, Smith crucially missing the kick.

Some resolute defending kept the game on a knife edge, but Gladiators took a 30-20 lead after Whybrow claimed his hat-trick, using their last set to maximum effect, Watkins converting.

Bury then lost kicker Smith to the sin bin, with the referee indicating a punch, but the green and yellows managed a converted try with a man less, Jez Powell twisting away from two tackles to go through.

But the fightback was short lived, with Gladiators’ Craig Jones touching down from close range to pull his side 10 clear after Watkins added another successful kick.