|Bury St Edmunds||28||10||1||17||629||774||-145||16||58|
|London Irish Wild Geese||28||7||0||21||620||906||-286||18||46|
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Barnes v Barnstaple 03 11 16
The Heathrow planes are stacked up ready to land with the undercarriage down over this corner of southwest London tucked in on the river bend just next to the Wetland Centre. The few Barum fans on the trip were given a warm welcome by Barnes, a small amateur club who are finally holding their own at Level 4 after a few years of yo-yoing between the leagues. An interesting contrast to some of the clubs in National 2 south who are clearly being bank rolled by sugar daddies.
Pez and James Bath were carrying injuries from last week so JP stepped in at scrum half with Jake Murphy at 10. Barum also welcomed the return of captain Winston James and a heavily strapped hand.
From the kick off Barnstaple won a penalty and cleared upfield. Line out, catch, ruck, whistle: JP yellow carded for stamping in the second minute. Not a good start and a concern to see poor discipline at the breakdown after last week’s card for stamping against Worthing.
Barum fought to sustain interest in the match with 14 men and managed to get some sound 22m pressure but lines were cleared when the ball was coughed up. Countering fast Barnes soon evened up the numbers when one of their players was also carded for a high tackle.
Both teams exhibited strong defence as play swept between the 22s and the ref was very strict on infringements, another factor that players need to adjust to this season where officials and their touch judges clamp down quickly on off sides and ruck violations.
During the second quarter Barnes began to take control forcing Barum back with a series of penalties that were being conceded at a rate of knots. Reluctant to kick points, Barnes put each penalty into touch. Great work at the line out and in a hard tackling shift allowed Barum to survive but eventually one penalty was kicked onto the 5m line. This time the dam burst and Barnes forced their way over: 7-0.
Now with their tails up the home side pressed and JP got carded once more for killing the ball. Two yellows equal a red. 10-0 and Barum under the cosh with a permanent 14 men now on display in red shirts. There was time for new kicker Issac Hydleman to pull back three points when the visitors won a penalty in range but minutes before the break Barnes back three combined well to burst through on the left creating space for an easy touch down: 17-3 at half time.
Shortly after the restart a loose ball was scooped up right by the pacey Barnes winger. Offload, time and space for a couple of side steps past the scrambling defence and over for 24-3. Game over surely and now an exercise in damage limitation for the Barum boys. An icy wind whipped through the trees from battleship grey northern skies and Devon seemed a long way away.
Replacements Trae Gosling and Matt Hague appeared as Barum dug deep. Finding a renewed energy they took the game to their hosts with a series of carries and touchline penalties. First signs of a recovery emerged when Winston was held just 1m short of the line. Relief from playing a man down was temporarily reprieved when a Barnes player got binned for another high tackle. Barum kept pressing and were rewarded when Will Topps ran back a clearance kick. Ryan Carter surged through the middle with a powerful carry, Jake Murphy continued the move and Linford Brock finished it: 24-10. And red spirits clearly lifted.
The replacement bench was now making a formidable impact as Barum moved to front foot rugby and pounded the line. First Murphy was held just centimetres short, then a scrum was awarded in front of the posts. An almighty heave, a creak, another big shove, scrum collapsed and a penalty try underneath the white bar: 24-17. Bonus point won and game on.
Barum’s pressure was now relentless running the ball back at pace and threatening the Barnes line at every turn. Only extraordinary line speed defence from the home players was enabling them to hold their shape but Ryan almost burst through again before a scrum was awarded to Barum in the dying minutes. Now camped on the 5m line, a long delay for a Barnes injury halted momentum. The minutes ticked well past 80. Finally the ball went into the scrum. Ruck after ruck was held on the line. Battering the home forwards Barum were eventually able to squeeze the ball down for a deserved draw and couple of welcome league points from the remarkable fight back: 24-24.