Bury St Edmunds Colts win the Eastern Counties Under-18s Cup after 15-15 draw in the final against Cambridge
Although their Eastern Counties Under-18s Cup Final did not see them reach the heights he has come to expect, Samir Kharbouch felt his Bury St Edmunds Colts side ended a memorable season with the silverware they deserved.
The side who made club history by reaching the RFU National Under-18s Cup semi-finals last month rounded off their 2022/23 campaign by lifting the regional trophy at Volac Park after beating hosting Cambridge courtesy of tries scored in a match ended 15-15.
Sunday’s game came after Bury had ended up coming second to Southwold in their group, suffering a couple of early defeats as a result of what head coach Kharbouch admits was a policy of prioritising their National Cup campaign.
He ended up being far from happy with how they performed in their season-ending match but felt the aftermatch became more a celebration of their season which was certainly fitting for a talented group whom he said he had been privileged to work with.
“It’s one of those where if I’m honest out there I felt really frustrated, but looking back on it I’m just pleased the boys ending up getting what they deserve for the year,” he said.
“They really, really deserved to win the Eastern Counties Cup as they have been the best team in the area.”
Bury’s campaign in the regional competition, played across two groups of four initially, which sees a round robin format that inter-crosses, had begun with a four-point defeat to Cambridge after fielding a development team.
Another much-changed side from their National Cup campaign saw them also lose the next match, to Shelford, who were not in their group, who they later went on to beat in the former competition.
Games then followed against Wymondham and Southwold with bonus points wins coming in both while Ipswich forfeited a fixture with them.
It left Bury qualifying in second place in their group behind Southwold and set up a semi-final tie away at the other group winners, Shelford.
After beating the Cambridgeshire side for a third time this season, they progressed through to Sunday’s final which Kharbouch was not happy to find was being staged at opponents Cambridge.
But three tries to Cambridge's two on the day ended up seeing the visitors ruin the hosting club’s perfect weekend storyline, having seen their senior first team earn an historic promotion to the RFU Championship as National League 1 winners the previous day.
Alex Wakefield and Will Spark were among Bury’s try-scorers on a day that Kharbouch admitted was emotionally charged as he opted to prioritise playing second year players in what for many is their final game for the club.
“It was a really emotional day as we knew it was going to be our last game together,” he said.
“I want to say a massive thank you to Will Kingston (assistant coach), Richard Barnes (team manager) and Kerri Ehret (physio) and the parents for being so supportive. And most importantly, all the players for all their hard work as they have just been awesome from day one.”