Bury St Edmunds let first away victory slip through their hands at Dings Crusaders in game overshadowed by serious injury to home prop Liam Appleton
Tom Hargan’s 79th minute try stunned Bury St Edmunds who looked destined to return from Bristol in their National League 2 South clash at Dings Crusaders with a vital away win, writes Simon Lord.
In a game completely overshadowed by the horrific injury to Dings prop forward Liam Appleton on Saturday, Bury’s lack of game management cost them the ultimate price in 33-27 defeat at Shaftesbury Park.
It leaves the Suffolk side with a losing bonus point from each of their opening two away matches, having won their pair of home fixtures, to sit ninth out of 16 in the early table.
For the first quarter of the match, Bury were in total control, executing a simple but effective game-plan.
A great kick chase allowed Charlie Reed to land a straight forward penalty after just two minutes and shortly after Bury added a converted try.
The visitors were dominating possession and territory culminating in an attacking scrum 15m out. Samir Kharbouch crashed up to the line, the ball was recycled quickly and there was no stopping Matt Bursey. Reed added the extras and it was 10-0.
Bury continued to stretch the Dings defence before kicking for field position and only an over elaboration prevented the Suffolk side adding to their score.
On 22 minutes the game was halted following Appleton's injury. Dings play on a 4G pitch and whether it had any influence is open to question, but a seemingly innocuous tackle resulted in the player sustaining a fracture and dislocation of the ankle.
The player could not be moved and it was over an hour before a paramedic arrived! Special praise should go to the Bury medical team who were first to react and provided gas and air for the stricken player. Eventually he was able to be lifted on to a stretcher and both sides gave him a guard of honour as he left the field. Everyone at Bury wishes Liam a speedy and complete recovery.
After much discussion, the game finally resumed at 5.15pm with players, spectators and officials all slightly uneasy as to how events might pan out.
As it was, Bury made a dream restart. Picking up from where they left off they forced Dings back with Bursey charging down a clearance kick and Kharbouch left with the simple task of gathering the ball and diving over to make it 17-0.
To be fair, Dings responded well and they went on to dominate the last 10 minutes of the half. Bury’s defence looked reasonably solid, but they had no answer to a Crusaders rolling maul and Alex Bilton was driven over from 15 metres out for 17-5 at the interval.
The score had lifted the home side who began to build a head of steam while the Bury defence began to fracture, culminating in a string of penalty concessions.
After 15 minutes of the second half another penalty was kicked to the corner and replacement prop Ben Bamber was driven over, Ben Bolster's fine conversion brought the scores to 17-12. Bury were looking ragged as they struggled to hold a now fired-up Dings side.
However, on the hour, a moment of brilliance restored Bury’s advantage. Ciaran Leeson fielded yet another Dings territorial kick before weaving his way down the touchline. Ethan Wilson was in good support and as he was tackled just yards short of the line, his pass to a supporting player was cynically knocked down. A yellow to the offending player, and a penalty 5m out for Bury. Bursey took it quickly, was halted on the line but when the ball came back, Cam Greenhall ghosted over for the try. Reed easily converted and Bury were back out to 24-12 ahead.
Game management was now required to use that 12 point advantage and close out the match. It did not happen and within five minutes Dings scored their third try.
Loose play allowed the ball to bounce on the unpredictable surface and left wing Hargan plucked the ball out of the air and ran in by the posts.
Bury did regain some composure and sensibly worked down field, earned a penalty and opted to kick at goal. Reed’s conversion stretched the lead to eight points, crucially meaning Dings would need to score twice in the last 10 minutes to win.
However, Bury still could not learn from their earlier mistakes. Quite why they chose to keep running the ball from their own 22 with a healthy cushion was bewildering.
Inevitably Bury were penalised at the breakdown, Dings kicked to the corner and a well worked move saw their hooker Tom Gollop barge over. Bolster converted and it was 27-26 to the visitors with eight minutes left on the clock.
The madness continued. Dings were throwing everything at Bury and The Wolfpack could not seem to gain any control. When it called for calm heads, Bury were found wanting.
Having soaked up what looked like Dings' last throw of the dice, three Bury players charged after a box kick rather than organising the chase. Winger Hargan caught the ball, threw an outrageous dummy and saw the whole pitch open up in front of him. With speed and momentum he easily side-stepped the last line of defence and raced in by the posts.
Understandably the Dings players were ecstatic, especially in light of earlier events, while Bury were left stunned and bemused as to how they had lost control of a game they twice had in the bag. It was a long journey home with just one point to show for a 14-hour day!
Barnstaple, based in north Devon, are due to visit the Haberden on Saturday (3pm) after only picking up one win from their opening four matches.