Bury St Edmunds 3rd XV 21 - 62 Cambridge Exiles
A late call up as forwards cover for Richie, turned into a surprise for him as he was picked to start the game. He combined with Dex to add experience and weight to the go forward thrust in the initial stages of the game from the Exiles’ pack who dominated throughout in most phases, only the scrum occasionally struggling with balance as Jos was solidity defined on the tight head, where Cadge got go forward on the loose, giving Banksie a red carpet ride to do his thing against the head. In the loose, Archie, Jim and James were everywhere around the pitch, turning over the Bury ball almost at will.
Nick was encouraging, cajoling and demanding at 9 throughout the game - Man of the Match for a consistently good performance. As ever, player/coach/skipper Stef managed the game beautifully, always picking the correct option, and for once the team followed instructions throughout, played to our game plan and showed the strength of playing as a team to a plan. Keep it simple: carry the ball, keep the ball, tie up the defence and spread wide to score. Result? Ten tries, some from good strong carrying, some from spreading it wide. Excellent!
Pretty soon into the game, a couple of good tight phases lead by Larry and Josh gave the opportunity to spread wide right and slick handling gave Coops the opportunity to time a good pass to Alex on the right wing to speed in to the corner for his first of two excellent tries.
Among the other four tries in the first half, an excellent break from Larry, one of many, got him over the line leaving the Bury defence scattered. A strong carry from James from fifteen metres and one of Josh’s two tries a sprint to the corner just outpacing the covering defender, the other a carry over from a wicked bounce of the ball in his favour. Stef converted 2 of them, with Bury’s single response from good tight play which the Exiles defended stoutly for some minutes on their own line, made the half time score 7-29 to the Exiles.
First change at half time brought Elie in for Richie, who’d made a great effort for his first forty minutes for almost two years. Shortly after, Kyle replaced Dex giving both our older second rows a well deserved breather. The added youth maintained the energy in the loose, if losing slightly in the guile of the experienced players.
Two more tries followed, Alex scoring his second when Coops’ superbly timed pass put him away with forty metres to the line. He pinned his ears back and raced to the corner. Coops then made a typical break from centre field and weaved through the defence to dot down under the posts. Stef’s conversion from a drop goal after the kicking tee was delayed took the score to 7-41.
At the next break, Maxim and Adam came onto the wings, with Josh moving up to experience back row, replacing Jim, for the first time - an experiment we were interested to trial - with Max moving in to centre. All these changes made no difference to the Exiles game plan or commitment though Bury were able to get a second converted try to reduce the deficit. Was this a come back? No. A bit of creative magic from Stef who passed to himself on the wing, left the Bury full back in a state of total confusion with no idea where the ball had gone and Stef ran round him to score. Max converted for 14-48.
Successive injuries to Josh - turned ankle, Archie - long story, which he never told me and Stef - dislocated finger, brought further changes, with the return of Jim to the back row, veteran Dick coming into the second row and Alex back on, moving to full back with Coops up to fly half, Jos taking over the captaincy. Bury scored a magnificent try from their right wing, who ran the length of the pitch chasing his own kick-ons with Alex and Dick in pursuit, three times the ball bounced right and he picked up with 5 metres to go his momentum taking him over despite Alex’s excellent tackle.
Nick and Coops continued to drive the game plan and the final two tries from the Exiles were both perfectly executed. First a line out followed by two classic carries, one by Larry, the second by Elie then gave the ball to Banksie, second oldest player on the pitch with fifteen metres to go. Although caught by two Bury players he drove for the line and reached out like a leaping salmon to touch down. The final try was spread wide to speedy Maxim on the left wing who left the tired Bury defence for dead as he weaved in and out then touched down under the sticks. Max made both conversions to take the final score to 21-62.
If the Exiles can continue to play to this game plan, they will be unstoppable in this league.
Tries: Alex 2, Lawrence, Josh 2, James, Coops, Stef, Banksie, Maxim
Conversions: Stef 3, Max 3
David Cadwalladr, Simon Banks, Jos Herbert, Richard Just, Dave Dexter, Jim Tebbit, Archie Davison, James Kennedy, Nick Apps, Stef Liebenberg, Max Burton, Lawrence Hutchinson, Joshua James Brown, Alex Howard, Sean Cooper
Replacements: Eli Hammou, Kyle Kotkin-Smith, Adam Griffiths, Maxim Gleeson, Dick Wallin