Redemption for Bury as they leave it late to claim victory
Bury St Edmunds may have ridden their luck a bit to take the lead for the first time in the match in the dying minutes against Clifton, but Nick Wakley felt it was redemption.
The Greene King IPA Haberden witnessed a thrilling finish to its first game of 2020 on Saturday as Kodie Drury-Hawkins held his nerve from a late penalty to see Bury to a 24-22 scoreline against previously fourth-placed Clifton.
The victory moved them up two places in the table to seventh place, just above tomorrow’s opponents in southwest London, Esher (3pm).
But after only claiming bonus points against the top sides previously, despite putting in performances that perhaps warranted more, Wakley felt the way Saturday’s game panned out was a bit of karma.
“It’s been a long time waiting for one of those games where we actually have the confidence to see it out and make the right decision at the right time and execute it,” he said.
“We have lost to the top three by three points in tight games. It has been building and it is important for our mentality and our confidence that we turned one of those over.
“I think the finishers did well coming on the field and making a big impact, Jack Harvey especially gave us that bit of stability in and around the breakdown.
“I would say we deserved it after the second half. I think in the first half we were really poor. (Missed) opportunities really gave us a 17-14 half-time deficit when really we should have gone in a lot more down.”
Wakley’s side had begun the day in ninth place in the table having signed off before Christmas with a losing bonus point defeat at home to league leaders Tonbridge Juddians.
The 17-13 loss had seen the Wolfpack surrender their unbeaten run at home, which had encompassed six matches.
With influential centre Ben Leng out injured, Tanner Lightfoot took on the No 12 shirt while local lad Chris Lord returned from injury alongside him.
Clifton, who had won their Bristol derby with Dings Crusaders 31-21 just before the festive break, included two former Bury players in their line-up with Matt Hall in the second row at No 4 and Finlay Sharp at full-back.
The visitors moved the ball around well in the first half and had Bury firmly on the backfoot, in contrast to how they had started against Tonbridge.
Former Bury player Hall provided the spark for the first converted try in the 10th minute with Betkey Halpin finsihing off a swift move and Bradley Barnes converting from wide on the left.
After the latter added a penalty to the scoreboard, good forward play saw Bury hit back from a scrum breakaway through Lightfoot, taking advantage of Chris Rovery’s yellow card, Drury-Hawkins converting.
But within five minutes Clifton stretched their lead back out to 10 points with another converted try, for 17-7. Sharp’s break down the left seeing a fortunate ricochet from his pass to meet Halpin’s run once again.
Within three minutes Bury wiped off those seven points with a try which saw great quick-thinking by prop Dan Walsh, who produced a clever shimmy before finding a line to break through and carry in from 25 metres out.
Solid defence saw Bury keep Clifton at bay for the rest of the half to trail 17-14.
The hosts started the second half well but winger Kieran Meikle and lock Yasin Browne were both sin binned within minutes of each other to halt their momentum.
Clifton took advantage with a pushover try claimed by replacement Luke Stafford, though this time Barnes’ conversion failed.
A series of stoppages frustrated the home crowd but they were eventually awarded a penalty try after a rolling maul was illegally halted to put them to within a point at 22-21 with 20 minutes to play.
Resilient defending kept them at bay time after time but their perseverance paid off shortly after a yellow card reduced Clifton to 14 men.
With a few minutes to play, the ball was worked to within a kickable position through the phases and a big roar from the crowd went up when the referee awarded a penalty.
Drury-Hawkins kept his cool to put Bury into the lead and they rode out the final time without any issues for a highly satisfying end to the game.
“The buzz that is in that dressing room now is fantastic,” said Wakley.
“We have a very tough game at Esher next week but also it is winnable.”
He believes Leng will be back available following a back injury.
Bury St Edmunds: 15 Affleck, 14 Leeson, 13 Meikle, 12 Lightfoot, 11 Lord, 10 Drury-Hawkins, 9 Dusi, 8 Wilson, 7 Milosevic, 6 Bursey, 5 Browne, 4 Leo, 3 Cooper, 2 Walsh, 1 Hill. Replacements: 16 Brown, 18 Robinson, 17 Gardner 19 White, 20 Harvey.
Coaches Man of the Match: Jack Harvey.
More by this authorRussell Claydon