A great away win at Old Albanians 27-39
by Neil ireland
After a sobering opening match against Henley, the Wolfpack travelled to Old Albanians hoping for an improved performance and came away worthy winners following a technically excellent and very often mesmeric performance.
Players and support staff were delighted to re-acquaint with former Bury coach Gavin Hogg, the OAs head coach.
Bury kicked off into the wind and were immediately penalised for taking an OA player out in the air. OAs kicked to the Bury St Edmunds 22m line and from the resulting line out, launched an attack down the left side line only for centre Mark Kohler to bundle the OA attacker into touch, an indication of what was to come as Bury’s defence throughout the match was well organised and shut down many of their opponent’s attacks.
After 4 minutes, Bury lost their second row Mike Graham to injury having caught a boot in the face and he was not to return to the field, instead encouraging his team mates from the side line but pacing up and down like a cross teenager who had lost his mobile phone. On came replacement Sam Bixby and from a penalty conceded by Bury for going in at the side, OAs kicked to the Bury 22 and from the resulting line out OAs were held up and it was time for the first scrum of the day, five minutes into the match. The Wolfpack were penalised when the Referee judged that the loose head had taken the scrum to the floor. OAs kicked to the Bury 5m line but the line out was not straight and with the put in to the ensuing scrum, the Bury forwards kept the ball tight and the ball was cleared. OAs took possession from the clearing kick and countered but were unable to make inroads and kicked the ball away resulting in Bury possession. It would not be the first time the home side were unable to make ground during the match, such was the quality of the Bury defence.
However, OAs were to score first after twelve minutes when they attacked wide and their fullback benefitted from a two on one to score under the posts, the conversion being successful and at 13 minutes into the match, OAs were 7-0 up. At the re-start, the OAs 13 was adjudged to have tackled a Bury player without the ball and Cam Ritchie converted the resulting penalty. Having been camped in their own half for much of the first quarter of the game, Bury began to construct some excellent breaks both through the forwards and the backs, the triumvirate of scrum half Connor Adams, 10 Nick Perez and inside centre Ben Leng starting to cause mayhem with clever interplay and accurate passing. A break by the Bury forwards through the middle resulted in OAs being offside and Cam Ritchie kicked the penalty making the score 7-6 to the home side after 18 minutes. A period of play between both teams 22m lines ensued until Bury centre Kohler was pinged for going off his feet, the OAs 10 converting.
At 30 minutes on the clock, with the score at 10-6 to OAs, they attempted an attack down the left side which came to nothing as their player was shepherded into touch by the Bury backs. From the line out, captain Ollie Watson who was very influential throughout the match, thundered up the middle of the pitch, passed to the Bury back line and the ball eventually found Bury second row Will Scholes who went over in the corner. A beautifully worked try which was converted from way out wide by Cam Ritchie. From the re-start, OAs put Bury under some pressure but their attacks were repelled by the Bury pack who refused to concede easy yards. OAs coughed up the ball due to this pressure and this released the Bury backs but the attack came to nothing. At 35 minutes gone, OAs counter attacked which resulted in a penalty to Bury on their 22 after fantastic defence, but this was reversed when a home team back kicked the ball away and Cameron Ritchie was sin-binned after expressing his displeasure in language he would unlikely use in church, the referee having warned both sides throughout the match to uphold the values of the game. OAs kicked the resulting penalty into the Bury corner and retained possession, eventually releasing full back Alex Noot to score in the corner with Dan West converting. Soon after the re-start, the Bury backs attacked on their right flank with Mark Kohler executing a beautifully judged kick over the OAs defensive line which was collected by Ben Leng who then passed back inside to Mark Kohler who rocketed to the OA line, scoring under the posts. The Bury centre converted his own try and at the end of the first half, the teams ran off with the score 17-20 to the visitors.
An excellent first half with the Bury team defending well, attacking with flair and getting the upper hand at scrum time.
With three minutes of the second half played, Bury were penalised when Sam Bixby was penalised for playing an OA player without the ball and the St Albans side duly scored after quick ball released hooker Jamie Townsend who dived spectacularly under the posts. The try was converted, the score now being 24-20 to OAs.
Bury started to ramp up the pressure on the home side with the pack making dents in the OAs defence but importantly retaining the ball well. At the 50 minute mark, with Cam Ritchie back on the field after serving his sentence, he collected a kick from OAs who were making no progress against the well drilled Bury defence. This freed up Kohler who returned the try scoring pass favour to Ben Leng who scored unopposed. The conversion by Ritchie was good and the score was OAs 24, Bury 27.
OAs levelled the scores from a penalty after Bury had been penalised for offside. Bury re-took the lead at 62 minutes when Jaid Wiltshire intercepted an OA pass on half way and sprinted clear to score in the corner. A well-deserved try resulting from great defence with Yasin Browne and Will Scholes (who was everywhere on the pitch it seemed), not giving an inch of ground. The conversion was close but floated wide but that was the try bonus point for Bury.
At 67 minutes, the Bury side earned a penalty after destroying their opposition’s scrum and Cam Ritchie kicked to the OAs 10 metre line. The Bury St Edmunds line out was good and concerted pressure resulted in a penalty for offside against the home team. Bury opted for a scrum rather than the more orthodox kick to the corner and catch and drive. This bold decision paid off as Bury camped on the OAs try line, sucking in defenders with ferocious but controlled attacks. Eventually the ball came left to Mark Kohler who scored Bury’s fifth try with Cam Ritchie who was having a fine day with boot converting, the score now being 27 – 39.
With four minutes to go inspirational captain Ollie Watson was replaced after a great shift in defence and attack. The final whistle was blown as Bury again dominated at a scrum and replacement scrum half Jan Hasenlechner kicked the ball to touch.
A fine victory for Jon Curry’s team against a very good Old Albanians side and a fantastic response after the first day of the season defeat to Henley. The Bury line out did not operate to full capacity but in all other aspects particularly defence and their offensive flair, the Wolfpack were back up to speed. Player of the Day was Will Scholes who was everywhere on the pitch, imperious in defence and lightening quick in attack.
Final score Old Albanians 27 – Bury St Edmunds 39. The return fixture takes place at the Greene King IPA Haberden on 22nd December.
It was a great double for Bury St Edmunds as the Wolfhounds beat Old Albanians 2’s 22 – 44.