Bury made their longest away trip of the season to North Walsham on a mild autumnal morning. The heavy overnight rain was complemented by regular downpours which led to some handling errors on the pitch and some soggy parents on the side lines. Tight games are usually the most exciting to watch and this match was no exception, with Bury generally controlling the set piece and using the ball well but North Walsham always a threat on the counter attack with some excellent backline passing play.
It was apparent from kick-off that Bury would have to be on top of their game to take anything away from the trip, with North Walsham showing off some excellent passing skills. Only four minutes were on the clock when one of their strong centres finished off a flowing backs move to score despite Bury being on the attack seconds earlier. The conversion was good to leave Bury 0-7 down and with work to do.
Bury started to impose themselves on the game and responded well to the early set back, albeit with a slightly haphazard and rushed style at times. A series of penalties were conceded by the home side as the pressure slowly told, but after one kick at goal was missed, the forwards took it upon themselves to score. Drive after drive was repelled at short range before Ben Hewett was alert enough to touch the ball down on the base of the post – demonstrating his excellent knowledge of the laws of rugby as the base of the post pads count as the try line in this situation. The conversion was missed to leave the score at 5-7 and, thanks to some strong defensive work from Charlie Burrows and Ollie Cooper, this remained the score until half-time.
The second half began in a similar vein to the first, with nice handling from the North Walsham backs setting up an excellent scoring opportunity in the left-hand corner. Great covering tackles were made by Kai Tan and Nico Marchini but North Walsham had more support on hand and they crossed over to stretch their lead out to 5-12 with the conversion missed. Bury now had it all to do with only twenty minutes left on the clock.
The Bury forwards pack had been winning their fair share of scrums in the opening period but slowly began to dominate the 16-player set piece in the second half. Prop forwards Jake Sadler and Alisdair Evans controlled the front row and from one of these successful scrummages on the home 22 metre line the number eight Vincent La Starza picked up and ran at the defence. A flurry of hand-offs, pace and power later and he had scored an excellent try under the posts. George Howard added the extras to take the score to 12-12.
With ten minutes left Bury were steadily ramping up the pressure on the home side, dominating the scrum and winning penalties at the breakdown. A lovely break by the superb newcomer Tom Dye was only just stopped, desperate covering defence bundling him into touch just before he reached the try line. There was still time for North Walsham to threaten a winning score of their own, only for their flying winger to be stopped in his tracks by a strong Vincent La Starza tackle.
Back came Bury, seemingly determined not to settle for a draw. Time and again the Bury attack worked through phases trying to unpick the locked door of the North Walsham defence. Players found reserves of energy and drove forwards, captain Billy Reid leading by example and bringing the ball straight back into attack whenever it was kicked clear. With the clock ticking over to the last play of the game sometimes a tightly locked door just needs kicking down. Jack Griggs picked up a bouncing ball near the 10m line and charged through the first line of defence. With no support on his right he pushed on just into the 22, before finding Vincent La Starza storming up on the left-hand side. Vincent drove onwards, showing his strength to get within a few metres of the line. With scrambling defence desperately holding things up, it was left to the Ben Hewett to cap some brilliant support play and crash over the line. The subsequent conversion was missed but the away team did not care as the final whistle blew and they celebrated a hard-earned victory.
For this team to fulfil their undoubted potential there is plenty to work on at training but there is also great optimism at the desire and determination shown. The spirit and attitude displayed was special and is something all the players and their parents can be very proud of. If they can turn the last ten minutes into a full performance then they would take some beating. Another away trip next week where the players will be looking to build on this good performance whilst enjoying the burgeoning camaraderie that victories like this helps foster. Well done to the entire squad and for the parents for their support and coping with the weather!
Man of the Match (Forwards): Tom Dye
Man of the Match (Backs): Billy Reid
Most improved (Forwards): Charlie Burrows
Most improved (Backs): Ollie Cooper