Bury St Edmunds left frustrated by 14-man Worthing after muddy battle at the Haberden ends in a losing bonus point
It proved to be a frustrating return to action for Bury St Edmunds this afternoon as a high-flying Worthing side left a man short for the last half-an-hour managed to see out a 20-14 victory at a muddy Greene King IPA Haberden.
The wet weather conditions meant it was never going to be a free-flowing attractive game of rugby and a single try and penalty gave the Sussex side what was a deserved but narrow 10-6 lead at the interval.
Bury were able to camp themselves inside their opponents half for much of the second period but, despite the advantage from Liam Perkins' dismissal for violent conduct, they struggled to find a way through a dogged rearguard.
Their decision-making also let them down while the visitors only needed one foray forward to add another try, before the Wolfpack finally replied with their own late on via Yasin Browne.
The last act of the match saw Charlie Reed slot over a tricky left-wing penalty to earn the hosts, who remain 11th in the National League 2 South table, while Worthing finished the day fifth, a losing bonus point.
But head coach and director of rugby Jacob Ford was left to reflect on what could have been once again, having also got to within a score of Esher in what was their previous game at the same venue back on December 4.
"In the first 30 minutes I felt we were a little bit off," he said.
"I felt we came back into the game after that and we showed some good fight there but ultimately we were very ill disciplined in the first half which was why we were probably trailing at half-time.
"In the second half you saw most of the game was in their half and we just couldn't get over the line. And in conditions like this you have to find a way to win and score points and unfortunately we didn't do that in the second half and that was a big swing in the game.
"The game was always going to be a low scoring game with not much attractive rugby which is pretty much against all the philosophies we have instilled here at the club but ultimately we've got to find a way to win and we just didn't do that today."
He also felt their eagerness to score was something which worked against them.
"Worthing definitely showed some good defensive fight and they definitely wanted it which is always good to have that challenge here at home. But ultimately we were just a little impatient in the gold zone and we didn't stick to what we talked about," he said.
"We beavered away and ultimately that is very difficult to score.
"The things that don't require talent when we've got the ball we just didn't show that at times to get over the line.
"Hopefully we will learn from that and I expect next week (at Rochford Hundred) to be a very similar game."
Having taken another losing bonus point, he said:"It's better than no points but ultimately we need to be winning games and putting in performances.
"Don't get me wrong, we're moving in the right direction. I think we're not far away but for us as a management team we would love the weather and playing surfaces to get a bit better and we can start playing the way we want to be play."
Worthing's Matthew McLean, who had already missed one, put the visitors into the lead with a sixth-minute penalty from just outside the 22.
An ambitious long-range attempt to level from Charlie Reed did not come off before he put a more presentable one wide as kicking dominating the opening 15 minutes.
Worthing did soon manage to work a good opening with ball in hand but knocked on at the vital moment.
Bury were fortunate to get away with McLean missing a central penalty in the 25th minute.
But with the hosts having seen Ben Kelland sent to the sin bin, Raiders were quick to make the numerical advantage count, with their forwards laing the platform for Harrison Sims to release McLean in down the left before he nailed a tricky conversion.
The Wolfpack finally got on the scoreboard with two minutes of the half remaining, Reed putting a penalty over from just inside the 22, coming after a good spell of pressure.
Another penalty, from 40 metres out, saw Reed reduce the deficit to four points in the final act of the half.
Bury started the second half strongly and saw ill-discipline soon reduce their visitors by two men as Sims was sent to the bin before their returning talisman, Liam Perkins, repeatedly lashed out leading to an early shower.
A 27-phase period inside the Worthing 22, before conceding a 5m drop-out saw the frustration and an inevitability about the result grow for the hosts.
And once they were restored to 14 men the Sussex side punished the profligacy with a try 12 minutes from time in what was their first proper incursion into Bury's half. Joshua Tusler did well to spin his way in following extended pressure with McLean adding the extras in front of the posts.
The home fans finally had something to cheer in the half five minutes later though when Browne found a gap in the Raiders' defence after a scrum deep in their opponents' half had been well recycled. But Reed's conversion attempt rattled back off the face of the left-hand post.
It looked like the bonus point was going to elude them when McLean got the chance to slot over a late penalty but there was one last go for Reed too, who made light of the tricky wide angle to at least see his side end the game with something.
Bury St Edmunds: 15 Reed, 14 Affleck, 13 Leeson, 12 Kharbouch, 11 Roper, 10 Greenhall, 9 Bolton, 1 Parilli-Ocampo, 2McCartney, 3 Cooper, 4 Conquest, 5 Kelland, 6 Bursey (c), 7 Watson, 8 Stevenson. Replacements: Strainge, Hill, Browne, Meters, Stanway.
Worthing: 15 Leeming, 14 Beer, 13 Forrest, 12 Sims, 11 McLean, 10 Tusler, 9 Dobinson, 1 Dowding, 2 Luke, 3 Litterick, 4 Lee, 5 Lake, 6 Perkins, 7 Kemp, 8 Taggart. Replacements: Bruce, Ravaudet, Cuffe, Rudder, Spencer.
Bury Coaches Man of the Match: Craig Stevenson.