By Facilities Manager
Bury St Edmunds V Birmingham and Solihull
With Nick Wakley on Hong Kong 10’s duty at the weekend, it was left to ex-Irish International Kevin Maggs to take the reins, for what turned out to be a gloriously sunny and warm Spring Day. You could say perfect conditions, and with a large crowd present, expectations were high against relegation embattled Birmingham Solihull (BEES). A humble point of note was the welcome return of Chris Lord after a long illness, who was warmly received by the ‘Wolfpack’ supporters.
The first half was not a pretty sight from the home team perspective, lots of solid play and fast ball, only to lose it at the critical time. Tui Uru, who was recently signed by Northampton Saints, made some strong runs, one of which was popped to Ritchie on the burst, only for us to lose the ball in the resultant ruck. The problem was exacerbated, where the increasingly confident BEES, began to attack at pace with some slick handling. A penalty conceded by Lord for coming into the ruck at the side, gave BEES the advantage with a long range kick into the Bury corner. With the resulting line-out well won, a strong maul and drive for the line, gave the visitors a well-deserved try out wide. Their scrum half was on kicking duty, but failed to convert.
Bury successfully fielded the kick-off and looked sharp with ball in hand, but during a typical long range pass to get the ball wide, an interception by the BEES centre, saw him stroll over for their second try in as many minutes; this time well converted.
So with 12 points unopposed, surely the Bury side would consolidate, dig in and maintain some much needed possession. Sadly not, again seemingly trying to go for the quick high ball, the ball was charged down and with a fortunate bounce, BEES gathered and quickly shipped it wide, for yet another well worked try. With a well struck conversion from near the touch line, it was becoming uncomfortable to watch. BEES were on the ascendancy and becoming very confident with ball in hand.
Ritchie made way for Affleck in the second quarter, with a clear instruction to keep hold of the ball. This seemed to work well with some good rugby from both sides, even though time and time again at crucial moments, Bury spilled the ball. With half-time approaching and the Bury forwards again on the back foot, Harvey kicked a high ball from deep inside his 22, but yet again BEES fielded the ball well and now with their slick handling backs moving at pace and Bury’s defence seemingly in disarray, we were left to witness yet another easy, converted try.
Half-time and Bury were 26 points behind with nothing to show for their efforts. What could ‘Maggsy’ do at the break to turn this uncomfortable spectacle around?
Bury were out first and looked hungry to get started. Affleck struck a confident kick, only to be dropped by the BEES number 8, resulting in a line-out in their 22. A positive for Bury for most of the game, had been good line-out ball and on this occasion, was no different. Lots of sharp running now by the Bury backs with some great interplay. From a scrum on the half-way line, Lord came into the line at pace, breaking through weak BEES tackles to cross the line in front of an exuberant crowd, to get much needed points on the board.
Bury then fielded a clean catch from the kick-off, quickly shipped the ball to Kohler who made a darting run to score under the posts. The try being converted, the crowd were now wondering if we could do what BEES did to us in the first half, also very reminiscent of the second half of this year’s Calcutta Cup! Harvey was replaced by Limlei and Robinson by Davis.
A Bury penalty on the halfway line was poorly kicked towards newly named ‘Modges Corner’ and although successfully fielded by the BEES full back, the kick for touch did not go far enough. An opportunity for another reliably won line-out in front of the home crowd seemed to energise the Wolfpack even further, resulting in driving the ball close to the BEES line. Bury quickly released it to the backs, allowing Kohler to come into the line at the perfect angle, to run unopposed for yet another quick score under the posts. A successful conversion put the score 19 – 26.
Entering the final quarter of the game, ill-discipline from BEES lead to their No 8 getting a yellow card. Soon after, Bury brought back Ritchie for Lord and Bixby came on for Graham. Clearly with such a frenetic pace in the game as a whole, the crowd were starting to see some tired legs. An injury to Limlei allowed Harvey back on. A shoulder charge by one of the BEES pack, lead to yet another player in the Sin Bin and the resultant penalty was kicked well into the BEES 22 again, in front of the home support. ‘Man of the Match’ Hooker Torpey had been inch perfect all day and this line-out was no exception. With another clean catch by the ever lively Uru, some of the backs joined the maul to power over for a pushover try. Alex Grey appeared with the ball in hand and Ritchie slotted the conversion from a difficult angle. The game now level with still 10 minutes to go.
If only Bury could have maintained the momentum they had built, they could have produced a great win. This sadly was not to be and when BEES slotted a long range penalty to put them ahead, it was soon clear they were not going to let this lead slip. The game ended 26 – 29, which sadly took the edge off a thrilling second half.
The crowd however, were thoroughly entertained and although there were a few patches of ill-discipline on both sides, there was yet again some high quality rugby on show at the Haberden and the home side at least secured ‘2’ Bonus points to keep them mid-table.
A very tough fixture away to promotion chasing Canterbury next week, then the final home game of the season on the 13th April against bottom of the table London Irish Wild Geese.