Much-changed Bury St Edmunds side delight head coach Jacob Ford by putting North Walsham’s Vikings to the sword at the Haberden
Bury St Edmunds head coach Jacob Ford spoke of his pride at seeing a much-changed Bury St Edmunds side deliver a more pleasing performance in this afternoon’s 50-17 success against North Walsham at the Greene King IPA Haberden.
The Wolfpack chief had been left feeling hugely let down by what he saw from his side in their opening day late salvo 21-20 victory at home to Old Albanians last Saturday, even describing it as leaving them feeling ‘like we’ve had a heavy loss’.
But after making 10 changes to his line-up for today’s battle in the sweltering conditions he was left with very different emotions after watching a young back line help put the Vikings to the sword with eight different players ending up with tries to their names.
“It was certainly a much better performance,” he said.
“We made 10 changes as I said I wanted to use my squad this year. We’ve got a 35-man squad and I rested some lads and some lads won’t be available next week (for the visit to Henley) so I had that in mind, and I wanted to see lads in different positions.
“It came through. It was always going to take 20 minutes of this game for the lads to come together when they hadn’t played together.
“I think the average age of that backline was 20 or 21. Both centres were 18 and the full-back 19, so I’m really happy and really proud those boys have stepped up and been playing first-team rugby.”
Harry Simpson, signed in the summer alongside his fellow centre partner at Ford’s successful Ipswich School side Ollie Saddleton, certainly made a name for himself on his first start for the west Suffolk club, ending up with the coaches’ man-of-the-match bubbly.
With fly-half Charlie Reed, ever dependable from the tee, having been a surprise departure just before the season started after landing an academy coaching job at a Premiership side, Kodie Drury-Hawkins had stepped up last week and earned victory with a last minute kick.
The Australian’s impending wedding meant he was not available today however.
And after Ben Penfold and Will Christie both missed conversions, it was former Northampton Saints Academy player Simpson who he stepped up to add the extra two points to five of the next six, one of which was the try he scored himself at the end of the first half.
“He did a brilliant job,” said Ford, “I think he played 9, 10, 12, 13, full-back at one point.
“It just shows we’ve got options within our squad to play people in different positions and people will step up and do a good job for us.
“I’m really happy for him and really happy we put in a performance.”
Bury held firm under some early pressure from the visitors before falling behind after 20 minutes after a misplaced pass on half-way saw Benji Hewitt break down the right, finding wing Harry Dye in support.
But it was not long before they levelled when Will Attfield took on a looping pass down the left to ground in the corner.
Before the clock had reached the half-hour mark Brayden Porteous broke well after an interception before finding Will Christie inside to go under by the posts to put the hosts ahead.
Within minutes it was 17-5 as a pass back inside after pressure down the left wing found home-grown talent Ruaraidh Williams to run over on his 50th cap with 18-year-old Simpson landing the conversion.
After good work down the right-hand side, Williams then turned provider for summer signing Porteous to run in under the posts and leave an easy kick with five minutes of the half remaining.
With North Walsham seeing try-scorer Dye go to the sin bin, the Wolfpack added a further try in the last play, Simpson finding a gap to dart through with his kick moving the scoreboard to 31-5.
Williams’ young replacement Archie Bourne had the corwd on their feet within two minutes of the restart after he took on Saddleton’s pass in mid-air in the left corner to provide an eye-catching finish, thought the angle beat Simpson from the tee.
It looked like Bury had added a seventh try shortly after but Simpson’s celebrations were cut short for a knock-on infringement.
North Walsham managed to cut Bury’s lead to 19 points with the next two tries with Dye taking on a clever kick across the line before Harry Steward finished a breakaway move with Bounre having a rest after a yellow card for deliberate offside.
It was in the second half of the second period, after the necessary drinks break, that Ford’s side turned the heat up again on the Vikings’ defence.
Sustained pressure eventually led to prop Lewis Jeffrey getting the ball down after Bury had worked the phases.
But there was still time for a champagne moment of free-flowing rugby to end a pleasing day for those in green and gold. Williams, back on, carried well down the left after exchanging passes with Bourne before swift hands saw the ball pass left to right through George Loose, Fin McCartney and Attfield before George Grigg-Pettitt added the finishing piece. Simpson’s kick was far from easy but got over to bring up the half century and cap a fine day.
Asked how close it was to the performance he wants, Ford said: “It’s not far off. In terms of certain 10 minute spells there, we looked pretty good.
“We probably only played for about 30 minutes of that game and we’re getting better but I was more concerned about how the lads coming into the team would play with each other and I thought we achieved that by the end of it which was a big box ticked for us.”
The Wolfpack will now turn their attentions to building up to a first away game down at Henley Hawks who followed up their opening day 43-33 home win against Guernsey with a 31-20 defeat at Old Albanians today.
“It’ll be a really tough game, it always is going down to Henley,” said Ford.
“They’ve got a brilliant forward pack. They’re hard to beat down there. I think every game I’ve played down there has been within a couple of points.
“It’s a completely different test for us and we’re definitely going to have to start well away from home. But it’ll be a different challenge this week and the boys are already excited about how we prepare for it.
“Again, we’ll just be looking for that performance and see if we can take that performance to that next level.”
Captain Matt Bursey (hip) is set to remain out while centre Samir Khrabouch, who took a bang to the head five weeks ago trainign with his under-18s side, is due to see a doctor in France on Monday ahead of making a decision of whether he can play for Algeria in the Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens’ opening match against hosting Zimbabwe in Harare. The tournament doubles up as a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olmypic Games.
Bury St Edmunds: 15 Loose, 14 Attfield, 13 Simpson, 12 Saddleton, 11 Affleck, 17 Penfold, 9 Christie, 1 Robinson, 2 Kingdom, 3 Jeffrey, 4 Grigg-Pettitt, 5 Tyler, 6 Williams, 7 Meyers, 8 Porteous.
Replacements: 16 McCartney, 0 Cooper, 18 Bourne, 21 Leng, 20 Stanway.
Coaches’ Man of the Match: Harry Simpson.