Spartans freeze out battling Bury
By Andrew Thomson
Wymondham RFC, 3rd February 2019
Squad: Aiden Davies, Alfie Funnell, Ben Harvey, Billy Evans, Cheu Hung Lo, Callum Sparkes (captain), Cam Verney, Conrad Harrison, Giles Starling, Harry Thomson, Harry Trenerry, Isaac Birch, Jack Burrill, Jake Garside, Joel Holderness, Luke Clarke, Luke Hayhurst, Matt Elsby, Matt Wernham, Oli Reek, Seth Ahier.
Coaches: Neil Davies, Tony Garside, Jon Hood, Andy Thomson.
Wymondham Spartans 31 - 5 Bury St Edmunds
Winter has been trying to get its teeth into the pitches but with no more than a crust of frost it was a case of cracking the ice on the puddles and waiting for the sun to do its work. “Bit like a crème brulee,” was one verdict. Bloody cold was another. But Bury are willing to give it a go and by 11am we are ready for kick off.
And that doesn’t go well. No Spartan claims it and when we do gather we are promptly bundled into touch. Errors sometimes creep into a good game - here it’s more like a cascade. Fortunately both sides are at it, spurred on by icy hands and a slippery ball. We give up a penalty, Bury stuff it up with a wild pass then gift us a pen back in a stuttering, mis-firing opening exchange.
Better things promise when Wymondham go wide, Billy just getting the ball away to Isaac who makes a hasty advance and clever chip into the Bury half. Handling errors cost us though and this is going to be a busy morning for both packs. Bury only have 15 players but there are good ball carriers amongst them and they set to attacking around the fringes. Wymondham don’t nail their tackles and it takes some sharp work by Callum to end a Bury break on their left wing.
We’ve got a clear edge over the visitors at the scrum but give away too many penalties to develop real go-forward. The backs do work the ball wide with some clean handling to Isaac who makes it to their 22 before being bundled into touch. Bury’s kick chase from the line out backfires when we get a scrum and Jake makes a blindside break from the base that sees him saunter in under the posts for our opening score.
Ben nails the conversion and two minutes later does it again, because Jake’s done it again - this time wriggling through Bury’s fractured line after Wymondham maul a line out. Others get in on the act - Jack is the next to bust open the defences with a thundering carry from half way. Bury’s scramble defence is good but we hang on to possession and recycle. A knock-on stalls things for a moment but we’re firmly in Bury’s 22 and get the ball back after forcing them into touch. Isaac gets the pass away in the face of a rushing yellow defence and Billy dummies, cuts back in and is over, with Jake tapping over the conversion.
Bury get their own back though as the Spartans give away two quick-fire penalties. That plants the visitors on our line and their short pass handling puts them in under the posts, but Seth has slid in to hold them up. Our luck doesn’t hold and Bury score off the resulting scrum, but it’s wide and they miss the conversion.
We nearly get our fourth just before the break when a penalty gifts us a throw in five metres out, but on what’s generally a good day for our line out this one doesn’t go to hand and we can’t capitalise. We are though still 21-5 up.
We might look in control on the scoreboard, but on the pitch we’ve not been accurate or patient enough to boss things and Bury come back hard in the second half. They’re good at holding on to the ball and again we opt to stay out of the breakdowns, keeping our defences well stocked. It leaves Bury trying crash balls that get felled, or probing laterally but making little ground. A penalty finally gets them inside our 22 and a line out gives them a chance to maul for the line but we rip possession back and Bill kicks clear.
Bury have possession and territory but can’t find a way to unpick our defences. Jake defuses a grubber and hard tackling and strong line speed disrupt Bury’s structure. The pressure pays off as we get more chances to attack, but fluency evades us as passes don’t got to hand and knock-ons produce yet more scrums.
The break comes when Bury’s discipline goes. The penalty puts us deep in their half and though Jake’s grubber is dotted down by Bury hands, there’s nothing they can do to stop Oli smashing through to score in the corner from the 5m scrum.
With little of the game left Bury resume the attack but are again met by firm tackles - and a flying one from big Luke. They are making the mistake of running back into our hardest enforcers who are in no mood to let them by.
Sparksy gets a turn over and for a moment it looks as though Joel and Matt W will break free on the left, but this isn’t a day for wingers and it’s Wymondham’s football skills that do for the visitors. Oli’s the quickest to react when the ref calls the ball out of the ruck - he hoofs it down field, as does Isaac and though Bury briefly gather it on their 22, Conrad is there to rip it back and score.
That puts an end to things. It’s been a niggly, clumsy game with neither side playing at their best. The score certainly doesn’t reflect Bury’s possession or effort, but the Spartans have taken more of their chances. Our thanks to Bury for making the journey up the A11 on a freezing day that nearly got the better of both teams. Even niggly and clumsy are better than another morning on the Xbox.
Men of the Match: Strong performances all round from the forwards - Callum was a constant threat and Conrad a menace - but Jack gets it for his game changing impact in attack and defence. And Jake is the back of the day for thumping tackles and dizzying breaks.