VIDEO: Bury St Edmunds player Cam Ritchie reflects on his penalty winning the National League 2 South contest with Old Albanian on Gavin Hogg's return to the Greene King IPA Haberden
Having missed from a similar position not long before, Cam Ritchie held the hopes of the overwhelming majority of the 500-plus crowd at the Greene King IPA Haberden in his hands as he ran up to kick a 40-metre penalty which would decide whether Bury St Edmunds went into the Christmas break on the back of three straight home defeats or with three victories from their last four.
Fortunately, this one sailed over to really kick-start the Christmas party which followed in the clubhouse afterwards as the Wolfpack celebrated a 24-22 victory over sixth-placed Old Albanian in National League 2 South to make it a losing return for their promotion-winning former coach, Gavin Hogg.
So how much of that pressure did South African-raised Ritchie, signed from Western Province over the summer, feel? He told sports editor Russell Claydon in our post-match video interview, which can be seen below, along with Simon Lord's match report (see Friday's Bury Free Press for reaction from head coach Nick Wakley on his first home win).
MATCH REPORT: Bury St Edmunds 24 Old Albanian 22
A last gasp converted penalty by Cam Ritchie snatched the win to deny former coach Gavin Hogg a winning return to Suffolk, writes Simon Lord.
With regular kicker Franco Cataugno off the field, it was left to the fly-half to steal the show with a dramatic long-range penalty.
The visitors had dominated the first period but a tremendous defensive display by Bury had kept the scores to 15-7 in the visitors' favour at the break. Despite dominating the territory and possession charts, Bury’s determination and organisation prevented OA’s creating many meaningful attacks.
Finlay Sharpe had opened the scoring for Bury on 10 minutes, after Ben Leng and Mark Kohler had exchanged passes as they broke down field before finding the left winger in space to finish the move.
OAs slowly edged their way back in the contest with a well-struck Dan Watts penalty. Ten minutes later an electric break by winger Lloyd Anderson proved too much for a floundering defence to put the Hertfordshire boys ahead as he raced on to a poor clearance kick.
As the game approached half-time, the visitors once again capitalised on a Bury error, turning the ball over and escaping down the blind side. Bury managed to stop the initial attack but OAs were queuing up out wide and winger Ricci Alessandro was “home alone” and thus the grateful recipient of Ewan Starling’s clever cross-field kick. Daniel Watts landed the conversion to send OAs into the changing rooms 15-7 ahead.
The second half saw a turnaround in fortunes with the home side now in the ascendancy.
Catuogno saw a penalty slide wide for Bury but the hosts were not going to let OAs escape easily and pressure told resulting in a Bury scrum inside the visitors' 22.
Yasin Browne drove for the line before Dave Coutts was able to spin off an attacking maul to power over from close-range. The conversion brought it back to 15-14 and anybody’s game.
Both sides pressed for the next score but it was Bury that took the lead, however the scorer was perhaps a surprise. A Bury attack 40 metres out found lock forward Will Scholes who burst through the tackle and then suddenly saw space open up in front of him. The second row had enough speed to outpace any would-be tacklers to touch down by the posts.
Suddenly an hour in and Bury led by six…
The old boys were not for rolling over and having forced Bury to back-track, OAs earned an attacking scrum 10 metres out themselves.
No8 Chris West spun off the side and then when it seemed space had run out, threw a clever overhead pass to Anderson for a score in the corner.
Watts' nerveless touchline conversion stunned the noisy crowd and one assumed victory for the visitors.
However, it was not to be and as OAs tried to run the clock down they were guilty of going off their feet a ruck to give Ritchie one last chance to steal the win for Bury.
The fly half’s kick from 40 metres crept to over the bar to huge cheers from the 500-plus crowd and prompting despair from Hogg and his team.
Bury: 15 Catuogno, 14 Sharp, 13 Kohler, 12 Leng, 11 Bodkin, 10 Ritchie, 9 Affleck, 1 Hill, 2 Francombe, 3 Cooper, 4 Stanley, 5 Scholes, 6 Grey, 7 Brown, 8 Browne.
Replacements: Bixby, Torpey, Coutts, Wiltshire, Button.