Elthamians turn up the heat
Lach's men stay in the promotion play-off position after a scorching first half try-scoring blitz against Bury.
Old Elthamians 47 Bury St Edmunds 12
Elthamians turned up the heat at a sweltering College Meadow on Saturday with a masterclass of counter-attacking rugby to secure the all-important bonus point victory which kept them in the driving seat for the promotion play-off spot.
Flying wingers Dom Lespierre and Huw Roberts helped themselves to two tries apiece in a clinical first half performance as OEs raced into an unassailable 33-0 lead by half-time much to the frustration of a Bury side who were excellent for much of this game.
It’s not often a side enjoys the greater share of possession and territory yet find themselves on the wrong end of a 40-point defeat. Bury probably spent more time with the ball in hand than any visiting team to College Meadow this season. They camped in the Elthamians half for most of the second period, recycled the ball patiently and were lively throughout.
But they struggled to break down a stifling, unrelenting OEs defence and whenever their attacking options broke down, the home side were quick to punish them with some devastating broken field running.
With the outstanding Ollie Claxton and Tom White, who kicked superbly throughout, pulling the strings at half-back in the opening 40 minutes, Elthamians were lethal with the ball in hand and that proved to be the major difference between the two sides.
The pattern was set in the opening exchanges. Bury started brightly using their backs to move the ball around intelligently and asking questions of the Elthamians defence. The home side were forced on the back foot for much of the opening quarter but, having soaked up the early pressure, they were quick to capitalise on the first half chance that came their way on 15 minutes.
Claxton was the instigator. His quickly taken penalty caught the Bury defence by surprise and he was able to pop a short pass to flanker Truman Sullivan - who enjoyed an impressive afternoon in the backrow – and he burst through two first up tackles in midfield and charged into the 22 before feeding Dom Lespierre hurtling up on his shoulder in support.
It was a try very much against the run of play and just two minutes later Elthamians doubled the lead with a lovely length-of-the-field counter-attack, started again by Claxton. The scrum-half raced away up the left flank from a lineout inside his own 22 before off-loading to hooker Nathan Morris and then Huw Roberts in support. The ball was recycled and moved quickly down the line for Lespierre to race away for his 29th try of the season.
Bury were left to wonder exactly how they found themselves 14 points in arrears despite having much the better of the opening exchanges. And it got progressively worse for them.
On 26 minutes, Roberts went over on the short side of a ruck after patient work from his forwards who began to get the upper hand in the close quarter exchanges with a series of drives to within metres of the Bury line.
And the crucial fourth try and all-important bonus point was secured five minutes from the interval, when that man Claxton darted over from close range following a driven five metre lineout.
There was still time for Elthamians to add a fifth score on 38 minutes thanks to more quick thinking from Claxton, who took another quick tapped penalty just outside the Bury 22 and seeing Roberts in acres of space on the left touchline, sent a perfectly weighted kick to the corner for the winger to collect and touch down over the line.
To their credit, Bury came out firing on all cylinders at the start of the second half and for the next 15 minutes Elthamians barely got a touch of the ball, forced instead to defend a succession of Bury attacks on the edge of their 22.
With the visitors far more direct and purposeful with the ball in hand after the restart, they eventually managed to breach the previously impregnable wall of yellow and blue shirts on 56 minutes when hard working No.8 Darren Gillespie drove over from close range.
The visitors’ joy was short-lived however. When Elthamians centre Alex Brown broke out of his own half with a trademark bullocking run and chip ahead which looked likely to end in a try, he was bodychecked by Bury centre Sam Sterling who was promptly shown a yellow card by referee Claire Hodnett.
The home side were quick to capitalise on the extra man advantage. From the resulting kick to the corner, replacement hooker Jay Rudland-Thomas was driven over by his forwards.
Leading 40-7, Elthamians saved the best for last with their seventh try 10 minutes from time. And it was a cracker. Brown started and finished a wonderful length-of-the-field move, breaking out of his own 22 and swapping passes with Chris Surman before jinking inside a tackler to score.
However, it was Bury who were to have the last word with a deserved second try eight minutes from time when winger Shaq Meyers and the impressive Gillespie got in behind the OEs defence and quick hands allowed replacement winger Chris Snelling to dive over in the right hand corner.
A small consolation for the visitors who were fully committed to the final whistle. For Elthamians, a crucial victory with just two matches of the season remaining and everything to play for.
Tries: Lespierre x 2 (14, 17), Roberts x 2 (26, 37) Claxton (34), Rudland-Thomas (61), A Brown (70)
Cons: White x 4 (14, 17, 26, 34) Robinson x 2 (61, 68)
Bury St Edmunds
Tries: Gillespie (56), Snelling (72)
Cons: O’Grady (56)
Old Elthamians: Surman, Lespierre, A Brown, Wilkins, Roberts, T White, Claxton, North, Morris, Liffchak, Preocanin, Messum, Sullivan, Barton, Ledger. Replacements: L Brown, Rudland-Thomas, Denbee, Luxford, Robinson.
Bury St Edmunds: Lord, Lyle, Sterling, Bailey-Kearney, Meyers, Affleck, Anderson-Brown, Trinder, Selby, Coutts, Hall, Marini, Micklethwaite, Stapleton, Gillespie. Replacements: Snelling, Collins, Painter, Hall, O’Grady.
Yellow Card – Sterling (60)
Referee: Claire Hodnett
Half-time: Old Elthamians 33 Bury St Edmunds 0