|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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Canterbury v Barnstaple 07 01 17
Barnstaple RFC’s first ever visit to Canterbury took place on a grey, misty and murky January day and involved a long trip of 259 miles from North Devon. The East Kent gloom and a fixture against a team riding high in the league top six, an outfit who had beaten Chinnor here and recently won at Redruth, suggested a tough challenge for the red shirts of North Devon. Despite these omens the travelling committee and supporters received a glowing welcome in the clubhouse and a fine reception in the match sponsor marquee tents, reciprocating the hospitality they had received in Devon earlier this season.
Barum began with Matt Hague filling in for the absent Ollie Mason but with Winston and JP still nursing injuries on the touchline. As home winger Barney Howard skimmed through the early tackles Barum were reminded of the running power of their opponents if given any space. An attempted clearance kick by Jake Murphy was charged down and the ball went loose. Penalty conceded and Barnstaple down 3-0. A knock on from the restart saw Canterbury back on the front foot and forcing territory with accurate kicks from hand. Tom Best slotted a second penalty on ten minutes to establish a 6-0 lead.
This time the kick off saw Barum win good ball and Isaac Hydleman kicked well to register three points from a 30m penalty and peg back to 6-3. Now Barum were growing in confidence despite the greasy ball producing handling errors by both sides. Winning Canterbury’s line out ball and shading the scrum set pieces Barum began to play in their opponent’s half. A Pez chip through saw Jake Murphy only just beaten to the chase but the driving mauls from the line outs were rattling the Kent outfit. From one such move the red forwards twisted, shoved and turned to force the ball over and Nat Bayet got the score for a 6-10 lead.
Moments later a superb break by Gohly saw the Canterbury defence shredded. Sadly his offload went forward and a try went begging. Barum’s line out success was being cancelled by gainline turnovers conceded and they soon had their lead reduced to one point when Best stepped up to place a third penalty through the sticks: 9-10.
Looking to move the ball wide with looped spin passes from coach Perry, Barum tried to stretch the Canterbury backs and were able to force a penalty on the 30m line. Spurning a kick for 9-13 with half time close they chose to go for touch and maul. This time the touch judge saw something he didn’t like. A consultation with the referee saw James Starkey carded and back went Barum. Countering the 14 men Tom Best was there once more with his kicking boots to give Canterbury the lead at 12-10.
As the minutes ticked before the break there was still time for the Canterbury hooker to upset the ref at a breakdown. Both number twos off, a Barum penalty and this time Isaac made no mistake for a 13-12 lead at the turn around.
Clearly the home side had had stern words in the dressing room as they emerged fired up and ready to run at Barum. From the kick off scrum half Dan Smart lived up to his name by carving through the Barnstaple line and setting up pressure in the 22. A maul was held but the ball worked left. Four crash ball carries were stopped on the line but the last was too much for a wilting defence and flanker McCormick Houston powered over to re-establish the lead at 17-13.
Both sides got stuck in on the gainline exchanges and struggled at times to secure a slippery ball under the floodlights but Barum emerged victors from attritional work on the fringes to set Linford going. His carry was sustained by Jake Murphy who broke the cover, drew the last man and offloaded to Ben Hilton to go under the posts: 17-20.
Now Canterbury were stung into action and moved up several gears to demonstrate why they have beaten some top sides this season. In a devastating ten minute spell they battered Barum with the rapid phases and offloads that we saw at Pottington earlier in the season. First Tom Burns crashed through for a 24-20 lead. From the restart Will Farris weaved his way past trailing defenders and set up Tom Best to touch down for 31-20. A kick off failed to go 10 and soon Farris was sailing past despairing arms and missed tackles for a 38-20 score. Bonus point win completed and Barum left gasping.
With the match seemingly over as a contest a plethora of replacements by both sides changed the momentum and everyone got a run out. Barum’s valiant attempts to look for bonus points ran into strong defence and speedy recoveries from the home side even when space was created. Barnstaple refused to lie down and kept plugging away. With bench players coming and going and the crowd looking to warm themselves in the clubhouse a Barum maul was rolling on the far side. Round they twisted and got Ben Hilton over: 38-25.
Minutes ticked, red shirts ran frantically and two yellow cards were dished out to Canterbury who fell foul of the new laws. Sensing their moment Barum regrouped for one last effort and Bryn Jenkins broke the line. Canterbury ran out of defenders as the Barnstaple lock drew his man and gave Ryan Carter a run in under the posts: 38-32 and two very deserved bonus points for the North Devon team.
In summary this was a strange match in which Barum were blitzed away in ten second half minutes but actually competed very well for the other 60. Two points were no more than they merited for their endeavours after such a long trip and bode well for the challenges ahead in this league.
The accompanying Barum fans were treated once more to a fine range of Shepherd Neame ales in a warm and convivial clubhouse. Nice to have Britain’s oldest brewery from Faversham personally sponsoring and supporting your club.