Cantabs entertained Bury knowing that a single point from the next two games would secure 2nd place in the league and looking to lay down a marker for next season. Bury have been ruthlessly efficient this season and with a combination of a strong scrum and snipping backs, had lost only once so far this season. A 30-17 result from the earlier fixture left the 2s in no doubt that they were in for a fierce contest.
Cantabs gathered early and were greeted by clear skies and a strong home crowd to accompany the warm weather, it was going to be tough work out on the pitch.
Cantabs received the kick off at the railway end and made use of some quick hands to make yards up the middle. When the ball was spread wide Cantabs were showing some real promise but a forward pass curtailed the attack and brought the first scrum of the game. The Bury pack was indeed strong but the front row of Tozer, Tim and Jonny did a fabulous job holding together and not giving an inch. The ball was moved out and wave after wave of Bury attack was shackled by committed Cantabs defense. However a succession of penalties for not rolling away in the contact area were conceded and soon Cantabs found themselves in the shadow of their posts. Bury elected to take the points and their scrum half dinked the ball over for the first points of the afternoon. 0-3.
Cantabs came back with intent and from the kick off put pressure on the gather. Bury just retained but were being knocked back into their half by the Cantabs defence and when the ball was turned over Lovett and Drew were making sure progress was made, especially in the wide channels, with Joe popping up as an additional Centre. Bury then had a man dispatched to the sin bin for killing the ball and Cantabs had a chance to go for the jugular.
A series of probing kicks from Lovett enabled Cantabs to play the game in the right areas and Jake and Joe were competing well in the lineout. Then a turnover in the Bury half was shifted to Lovett, who nudged the ball into the corner were Jake did enough to disrupt the catch and the ball dribbled back into the scoring zone for Lovett to pounce and dot the ball down, giving Cantabs the lead, and then regathering his composure to hit an excellent conversion from far out on the left. 7-3.
On Gathering the restart Laurence ran the ball back at Bury but the offload could not quite find Jonny in support and Bury had another scrum in the Cantabs half. The pack again held firm but Bury used the platform to squeeze Cantabs. A succession of penalties saw the Blue and White line pushed further and further back but tenacious work in the lineout and maul prevented Bury from making the most of it and crossing. With another penalty conceded Cantabs were issued with a warning and the ball nudged into the corner Bury were able to gather but a good counter surge from Cantabs was able to halt the initial drive. Bury regathered and went close and where held up just short but illegally in the eyes of the referee and Jonny was dispatched to the bin.
With Bury back up to a full complement they continued to press and their flanker was just held up over the line by Drew and Laurence after a strong run up the middle. With Laurence moving to hooker for the next scrum a reduced Cantabs pack were just able to hold off the Bury drive and after a succession a phases the ball was spilt and Cantabs had a chance to regain possession with a scrum of their own. The ball made it to the back of the scrum where Josh was able to clear and give Cantabs some much needed breathing room.
A penalty kick for a Bury infringement was nudged into touch were the catch and drive saw Cantabs storm up the left with the Bury pack in disarray and was only halted by some illegal play. The ball was shipped wide with a free play assured and Finlay hit the line and was able to make it across for Cantabs second. This time the conversion was slightly off but with the score at 12-3 Cantabs had dutiful reward for their attacking intent.
As the clock ticked into the red Bury were awarded a penalty on halfway. Their scrum half took a quick tap and the Blue and White line stepped up to meet. All were fooled by the chip over the top which was elegantly regathered and shipped to the marauding second row who crossed in the right corner. The conversion just faded to the left but Bury were back in the game as the half time whistle went 12-8.
No changes at half time and as the team turned around instructions were barked, neaten up the discipline and add the extra 20% intensity.
Cantabs were tackling well, with Ed, Jake and Jonny all putting in a succession of hits on the big Bury runners. Drew was holding up attackers in the midfield and with support players swarming in to help, was a great source of turnover ball. Then Jake got on the bad end of a tackle on the Bury second row and had to leave the pitch feeling significantly worse for wear. Janos took his place.
Still finding success in the wide channels Cantabs had the chance to add to their lead but for a final forward pass to put Fergus free down the left.
Bury continued to use their big runners to batter holes and snipe around the edges. The ball found its way to the left where a couple of deft offloads broke the Cantabs line leaving a 1 on 1 with Finlay. The Cantabs fullback pulled the man down but in the eyes of the referee didnt make sufficient effort to roll away and was given his marching orders.
Bury sensed blood and elected for the scrum just 5m out. This time they elected to keep the ball at the back and despite Cantabs best effort the scrum sheared and the referee trotted under the posts for a Penalty try. The conversion was a formality and Bury were back in the lead at 12-15.
Again Cantabs pressurised at the kick off and as Bury tried to move the ball wide it was spilled giving Cantabs the scrum. Tim regained this well and with the ball at the back the Bury back row broke too early, giving Cantabs the penalty. Lovett was directed to go for the posts but his kick went just to the right.
The drop out went into touch and Cantabs shortened lineout gathered the ball and drove on through the centre of the Bury line. The ball was moved out and Jonny Regan hit the line at pace and was taken down just inches short under the posts and as Cantabs looked to recycle a Bury hand held the ball in. The infringing Bury player was sent to the Bin and Cantabs had a penalty under the posts. Laurence elected for a tap and with the defense anticipating a pick and drive for the line from Jonny the ball was moved right through Josh and Drew to find a returned Finlay on the wing to dive over unopposed. Lovett added another tough conversion and Cantabs had the lead and a 4 point buffer. 19-15.
Ben came on for Puds, who had been tackling and carrying hard all game, and Craig replaced Fergus who had turned his opposite number inside out on numerous occasions.
The final quarter was a nervy affair with Bury throwing everything at Cantabs and running penalties from everywhere. A quick tap from the Bury scrum half saw Dan up too quickly and take the man before he had retreated the statutory 10m and so he was given his marching orders.
As the minutes ticked over Bury had a penalty which they were allowed to put into touch with seconds left on the clock for a lineout 5m from the Cantabs line. Again the Cantabs pack squared up and knocked back the resulting maul and the Blue and White line was not to be broken, every man stepping up to hit back the Bury runners with interest. Bury ended up attacking from the 22m and a desperate set of passes wide were met by Cantabs defenders, the ball was spilled and Lovett hacked the ball on. Joe showed some strong footballing skills and was able to regather and head upfield but was brought down with the line at his mercy and as he tried to place the ball it was again knocked on.
The end of the game was called and Cantabs had won. An excellent game, with everyone throwing their heart and soul into the game and I have yet to remove the smile from my face. Thanks to all involved and to the touchline support who really helped to lift the team.
MOTM: for excellent awareness and game management, making sure we played the game in the right parts of the pitch, as well as his kicking and taking a try of his own, Chris Lovett take a bow
DOTD: A fair few nominations for this list, our three yellow cards contributed and Joe Allison put his hand up with his end of game fumble over the line but for jug avoidance Finlay takes the award today.
Cantabs 19 (12)
Tries (3): Lovett, Finlay Wilson (2)