Bishop's Stortford registered a 38-7 victory in their home friendly against Bury St Edmunds at Silver Leys
Bishop's Stortford registered a 38-7 victory in their home friendly against Bury St Edmunds on Saturday, writes John Allanson.
Having lost to the same opponents 49-17 away from home with an under-strength squad the previous week, Stortford proved too good second time around at Silver Leys.
Bolstered by the return of several players, the hosts put on a much more convincing performance than in the away fixture, despite early struggles in the scrums which brought a string of penalties against the home side.
Right from the off, Stortford were penalised five times in quick succession, with two lineout decisions interspersed between three at scrums, resulting in huge Bury pressure. The home defence proved much more robust than the previous week, however, and relief eventually came via a free-kick at a scrum.
It was, therefore, very much against the early balance of play when the home side registered the first score with 10 minutes gone with Josh Stannard forcing his way over for an unconverted try after the ball was moved quickly wide following a great burst by Alex Rayment from a miscued Bury lineout.
The referee continued to find fault with Stortford's front-row play and finally lost patience after 15 minutes, showing loose-head Seb Brownhill a yellow card.
The penalty went to touch and, three phases later, the visitors touched down under the posts to set home nerves jangling, with memories of how effective the Bury backs had been seven days earlier.
This time, with a much more aggressive and structured defence, Stortford stemmed the flow, despite being a man down and steadily took control. The well-organised backline stretched the opposition at every opportunity and the whole side were quick to seize on Bury handling errors in the tricky, wet conditions.
With Brownhill's return to action, a bit of balance was restored in the scrums and Stortford's lead was restored after 32 minutes as Rayment touched down at the back of a powerfully-driven maul from a five-metre lineout.
George Cullen added the conversion, but he was unable to repeat the feat from out wide seven minutes later when debutant winger Cole Swannack rounded off another good passage of play, the ball being swung quickly the width of the field after three forward drives at the line had been held out.
Stortford's lead was stretched by a further seven points almost immediately at the start of the second half, with Stannard leading the charge down the left to kick ahead and, when the visitors were unable to tidy up the bouncing ball, Sam Coleman pounced for an opportunist try.
When Dan Powell, this week playing on the wing, capitalised on another telling kick ahead from Stannard to touch down eight minutes later, the contest was effectively over and the game rather petered out as more substitutions were made.
The final score of the match again went Stortford's way after 25 minutes of the half when Rory Banks touched down for another converted try from the third phase of a series of forward drives.
This took the final score to 38-7 against a battling Bury team who, as the away match had clearly shown, are capable of playing very good rugby if given any room at all.