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Bury St Edmunds chief Jacob Ford ready to set Wolfpack loose against runaway leaders Blackheath in free entry match





Hosting runaway National League 2 East leaders Blackheath in a free entry rearranged game on Saturday (3pm), Bury St Edmunds head coach Jacob Ford could be forgiven for devising a game-plan to stifle their opponents.

But against a side that dwarf their own winning run –taken to six with the weekend's 28-11 success at struggling Canterbury – with 11 on the spin, he has promised to set the Wolfpack loose against them.

And a gung-ho approach could lead to a thrilling match for what is expected to be a bumper crowd at the Greene King IPA Habderden taking advantage of the free offer to appease those that turned up in bitterly cold conditions on January 21.

Mike Stanway, whose wide try had put Bury in front at Canterbury on Saturday, will hope to stretch his legs again against Blackheath this weekend Picture: Mecha Morton
Mike Stanway, whose wide try had put Bury in front at Canterbury on Saturday, will hope to stretch his legs again against Blackheath this weekend Picture: Mecha Morton

Despite a highly qualified official having passed the pitch as playable following the club's efforts to get that game on in the build-up, it was eventually postponed within half-an-hour of kick-off due to what was said to be the opposition's request.

Asked if that backdrop provided further spark to the fixture against the side 12 points clear of Worthing with a game in hand, putting them within a couple of victories of confirming an immediate third tier return, Ford said: "I don't think so. I think that feels a long time ago now and with what's happened inbetween then and where we are now, it's a completely different challenge.

"They are a fantastic team and we're going to have to be definitely at our best if we're going to stand a chance to beat them but it's a great challenge and one we're looking forward to.

Canterbury and Bury St Edmunds battle it out on Saturday Picture: Phillipa Hilton
Canterbury and Bury St Edmunds battle it out on Saturday Picture: Phillipa Hilton

"We're pretty proud of how we play the game, especially at home, so the ball's in our court, I've said that, going into the beginning of this run that we've got with these three games against teams around us.

"We've just got to make sure, first and foremost, that we serve first and hopefully it will be an ace."

And there is one word which is set to be mentioned a lot during their training sessions ahead of his now fourth-placed side taking on one that have averaged more than 40 points a game so far this campaign, only losing twice in 21 matches.

"Courage is the key to beating them: having the courage to play the way we want to with the ball, the courage to go at them and the courage to put pressure on them when they haven't got the ball. It's that simple really," said Ford, also the club's director of rugby.

A Ben Penfold kick is charged down in Bury St Edmunds' victory at Canterbury Picture: Phillipa Hilton
A Ben Penfold kick is charged down in Bury St Edmunds' victory at Canterbury Picture: Phillipa Hilton

"It's more of a mindset thing with us and teams when they play Blackheath and we're most certainly going to roll the dice and leave everything out there.

"We're going to twist rather than stick with the cards so we're really looking forward to that."

He added: "The shackles are off for us. There's not an awful lot to lose for us so we're going to make sure we throw the kitchen sink at it and leave the pitch with no regrets, that's pretty important for me.

Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club head coach and director of rugby Jacob Ford is looking forward to his in-form fourth-placed side taking on leaders Blackheath his weekend Picture: Mecha Morton
Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club head coach and director of rugby Jacob Ford is looking forward to his in-form fourth-placed side taking on leaders Blackheath his weekend Picture: Mecha Morton

"I want everyone involved in the squad to look at each other at the end of it and say we emptied the tank and we gave it everything we said we were going to do and that's critical to the outcome."

Bury go into the match on a six-game winning run after a clinical second-half display at Canterbury, when the slope was in their favour, saw them prevail 28-11.

Kodie Drury-Hawkins is in line to return from his concussion absence this weekend Picture: Mark Westley
Kodie Drury-Hawkins is in line to return from his concussion absence this weekend Picture: Mark Westley

Despite Mike Stanway's burst down the right putting them a converted try in front, with Charlie Reed adding the extras, it was a largely backs-to-the-wall first 40 minutes with Frank Reynolds late penalty kick sending the hosts in 11-7 up.

A good flowing passing move early in the second period saw Reed convert his own try to put Bury back in front and from there they never looked back.

Reed added another converted try after the hosts had Will Waddington and Nathan Morris both sent to the sin bin.

Back against 15, a penalty from a breakdown saw captain Matt Bursey tap and go for the first of his two tires, the second coming from his chip and run effort to complete the scoring.

Ford had gone into the game calling for his side to 'step up the performance' following a largely scrappy 52-7 home victory over Rochford Hundred, but he was left fairly pleased with what he saw in Kent.

"With the slope there it was always going to probably be a game of two halves," he said. "But I felt we really stuck at it in the first half and showed some real grit from not having the ball with the defensive side of things.

"It was incredibly difficult in terms of coming out of your own half with the ball.

"I was pretty happy with some of the characteristics we showed there and then we were pretty clinical in the second half.

"I was pretty happy overall, playing away from home, and how we went about playing the game."

He added: "It was a pretty good performance overall and I think the main thing for me is we could have played for longer, I think we only played for about 10 or 15 minutes in that game the way we wanted to with the ball, purely down to the opportunities we got.

"Hopefully that will be a little bit more this week."

An ankle issue which saw captain Bursey substituted on Saturday is not thought to put his selection in doubt this week while Australian fly-half Kodie Drury-Hawkins will be set to return from concussion.

Ford said: "Nobody is ruled out at the minute. Selection is going to be tough this week but we're going to pick a team that allows us to play our game so we're looking forward to that."

On the prospect of a big crowd to cheer them on, he said: "We have had some fantastic crowds recently and the Dorking game especially and hopefully we can put in that sort of performance that excites them and makes them want to come back, that's pretty important for us.

"If that weather stays away then we would like to think we could have a really good game from both sides so we're looking forward to that."

* Meanwhile, Bury St Edmunds Foxes moved up to fourth place in their penultimate Women's Championship Midlands 2 match with yesterday's 39-17 home victory against Hitchin Ladies.

Grace Deane scores a try for Bury St Edmunds Foxes in their final home game win against Hitchin Picture: Mecha Morton
Grace Deane scores a try for Bury St Edmunds Foxes in their final home game win against Hitchin Picture: Mecha Morton
Georgie Palmer looks to hold on to the ball on Sunday Picture: Mecha Morton
Georgie Palmer looks to hold on to the ball on Sunday Picture: Mecha Morton
Steph Durrant runs clear for Bury Foxes Picture: Mecha Morton
Steph Durrant runs clear for Bury Foxes Picture: Mecha Morton

Georgia Lang was named back of the match with Sian Smith forward of the match, while the oppositions' player award went to Grace Deane.

Bury cannot finish any higher but could go back down to fifth in the eight team division going into their final match which does not come until April 2 at second-placed Lichfield Ladies.