Important victory for Wolfpack
Bury St Edmunds 46
Head coach Ollie Smith saluted the first-half performance of the Wolfpack, describing it as the ‘best rugby we have played this season’.
The victory at The Haberden came as the side searched for their first win in February, having lost their last two fixtures on the road in National League Two South.
And it was watched by a crowd of around 500 on the dry and mild afternoon.
They were treated to an 11-try feast as both teams played expansive rugby which was rewarded with a try-scoring bonus apiece.
It delivered the Wolfpack’s first points after recent results have left them 10 points adrift of fifth place in the league, and only one point above seventh, as they continue to chase down the club’s highest ever finish, sixth or higher.
But Smith said this has not been enough of a goal to keep the players motivated as the season trundles on, with no concerns about relegation but also no hope of promotion.
He said:“It’s hard to stay motivated all the time, when you’re fabricating the urgency.
“We’re in mid-table limbo and the boys know that one performance isn’t going to change the league they play in next season.
“It’s hard, as a player, to keep your head in the game when you’re being told ‘if we win we might go up a place, but it might be down a place, depending on other results’.
“It doesn’t breed the performance conditions for inspiring them I have to admit.
“So I think we would be seeing different results and better performances if there was something still to chase. But we are still trying to push on and finish as high as we can.”
The team have a week off before going again on March 3 away to Clifton.
“We’ve tried to be as smart as we can about motivating the squad and taking each game as it comes,” Smith added.
“The message for Canterbury, at home, was about bouncing back after two losses. We had said it was an important game to get us back on track. We want to pride ourselves on our home form.
“We had a fantastic first 40 minutes, we played probably the best rugby we have played this season and we scored a couple of cracking tries.
“In fairness to Canterbury, they got back in it and got a bonus point which they fully deserved but, overall, we were the better side.
“The second half got a little loose but that’s what happens when you are so far ahead at half-time.
“It was frustrating to watch as a coach because I have been trying to get them to understand how to close a game out and to take advantage without pushing your luck.
“But it got a bit messy, the way a lot of our games have been in the second half. We need to work on it and learn how to close a game down when it’s won by half-time.
“We missed another chance to do that against Canterbury, despite staying comfortably ahead for most of it.”
Bury had raced into a three try lead within the first 15 minutes, although a failure to convert any left the door open for the visitors to respond.
Tui Uru went over to claim the side’s first after six minutes as the home side purred through their phases.
Another try followed five minutes later as Mark Kohler — who could probably have reached the line himself — burst through and off-loaded to Will Affleck, who scored.
Try number three came shortly after, with Kohler again key. Fraser Honey’s well-placed cross-field kick was gathered by Kohler who touched down.
In a open and free-flowing game, the visitors didn’t take long to reply, scoring a converted try to reduce the arrears to 15-7.
Jake Ashby, back in the side after being on international duty with Holland last week, got Bury back on the front foot as he combined well with Dwayne Corcoran to send a supporting Sam Bixby over for a try scoring bonus point.
Honey this time converted to stretch their lead.
The Wolfpack’s fifth try came before the break as Kohler intercepted to run 60 metres to go in under the posts and give Honey an easy conversion for a 29-7 lead.
After half-time, Bury came out strong; Kohler and Uru setting up Corcoran for a touchdown out wide. Honey again converted to make it 36-7.
The home side seemed to then switch off, causing frustration for Smith on the touchline, as Canterbury were rewarded for their continued efforts with two converted tries to bring the score to a more concerning 36-21.
But a penalty try and a sin bin, as Canterbury were judged to have collapsed a driving maul, followed by a penalty, put the Wolfpack out of reach — despite Canterbury crossing the try line once more to claim their own try scoring bonus point.
• Meanwhile, the Wolfpack’s top point scorer has been selected in the Cornish county team.
Fraser Honey, who has played most of his rugby in Cornwall, has been named in the squad to compete in the Bill Beaumont County Championship, with their first game against Surrey on May 5.