Six players set for swansong as Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club's Wolfpack hunt season target of top four finish in home finale with Henley Hawks
A bumper crowd at the GK IPA Haberden for Bury’s season finale with Henley Hawks on Saturday (3pm) – with a club record finish at stake – will be seeing off no less than six players.
Yasin Browne, who earned his 100th cap earlier this season as well as Ciaran Leeson, Toby Hill, Rob Conquest, Craig Stevenson and Harry Hall are all moving on.
Only one of those, prop Hill, is doing so because of rugby reasons with the tighthead who joined from Hartpury College’s BUCS squad in August 2018 having secured a step up with an unnamed National League 1 club.
Former Ireland Under-18 international Browne joined the club in the summer of 2017 but is heading back to his homeland while fellow no8 Stevenson is also moving out of the area for his day job along winger Leeson.
Scrum-half Hall, who rejoined the club at the turn of the year, is heading off to Bath University while Conquest is also departing after two seasons.
Head coach and director of rugby Jacob Ford says he will be sad to lose the services of all of them, though is looking at it as natural turnover, with all but one for non-rugby reasons.
And he says his Wolfpack side are hellbent on doing everything they can to earn their season target of a top four finish to give them a perfect send off.
Bury head into the contest in sixth spot, one point off fifth-placed Henley and three adrift of Worthing in fourth.
A home victory would guarantee a club record fourth tier finish in the top five for Ford’s charges after the head coach re-set the bar in his first season with sixth.
But it is the prize of fourth the Wolfpack are hungrily chasing down, following a highly-pleasing 35-19 win over in Guernsey last Friday evening.
“We’ve given ourselves a chance,” said Ford.
“The way it was after the Barnes game we were all pretty disappointed.
“We felt it was in our hands to manipulate that top four finish we wanted and then the last two games, OAs and Guernsey, we’ve managed to put ourselves back in a position where we can fight for that fourth spot. But so can Henley so it makes it a really big game for both teams.
“There will be a lot to play for. We’ve been clear with our ambition from the start of the season where we want to finish and we’ve got six players leaving us at the end of the this so we’ve got a lot of emotional stuff to play for as well. So I think it’ll be a great day and a great game of rugby with two good teams really going at it.
“Listen, results have got to go our way in terms of Worthing going to Barnes but all we can do is control what we can and put in a really good performance and look to get a result from it.”
Reflecting on last Friday’s game at Guernsey, he came away delighted with the way his players handled their longest trip of the campaign.
“It was a good performance more than anything else, especially in the second half when we had 14 men (yellow card) and we still played some real positive rugby and got some tough outcomes out of it,” he said.
“It’s always tough going to Guernsey, it is always a battle especially mentally with getting over there for a Friday night game.
“We came through that even when it was difficult. It was 14-12 at half-time and pretty close after the strong start we had so we had to dig deep there and ride a purple patch for them and we came out the other side so I was pretty impressed. All in all it was a good trip.”
Mike Stanway’s try through the backs before the mid-way point of the half, converted by Charlie Reed, put Bury in front in Friday’s game before Leeson crossed after a number of phases to add seven more.
The Raiders came back to within two with a pair of tries themselves though heading into the interval.
Wing Leeson extended Bury’s lead early in the second period after capitalising on a mistake with Reed adding the extras.
Guernsey hit back with a converted try before the Wolfpack came through a period that saw them down to 14 due to the sin bin with converted tries from Matt Bursey and Harry Hall to end with the bonus point.
Colts reach Eastern Counties final
Bury St Edmunds Colts may have missed out on a national final but Samir Kharbouch’s side have bounced back from their RFU National Under-18s Cup semi-final defeat by reaching the Eastern Counties Cup final.
Bury overturned a half-time score of 8-7 with an exhilarating second half display to win their last four encounter at Shelford 28-13.
The final is a week on Sunday against Cambridge, who will also be hosting the showpiece match.