11 February 2023 Colts Game Report: Burton 24-33 Derby

Derby Colts travelled the short distance to take on a feisty Burton side in a fractious, passionate, sometimes too passionate game, that saw comeback kings Derby recover from 24-14 down with 20 minutes to go to eventually run out 33-24 winners.

Derby as they often are, were inaccurate with both their passing and catching in the opening 10 minutes. However after moving the ball wide a little feint by Harry Wharam caused Burton’s outside defence to bite in allowing fullback Harry Cook the space to race over in the corner from 25 metres, cleverly sprinting in the in goal area to touch down under the posts, which he duely converted.

Burton hit back from a midfield scrum when the Burton 12 was allowed to sprint 40 metres through a gaping hole to score a converted try under the posts. Derby’s defence continued to be disjointed and simple passing put Burton’s right winger away to score an uncoverted try in the corner for a 12 -7 lead. Things went from bad to worse for Derby when Burton’s forwards were then able to force their way over for a converted try to lead 19-7.

However, Derby rallied and from inside their own 22 Harry Wharam dummied twice to the 10m line before the backs and forwards combined first right and the left to take the play deep into Burton territory. Quickly moving the ball back to the right unmarked flanker Sid Perrot discovered fast twitch muscles he didn’t know he had to outsprint the suprised Burton backs to score….just!! Sutton converted to make it 19-14 to Burton. With their tails up Derby launched a series of attacks and several times a score seemed inevitable, but brave Burton defence eventually led to Derby being held up over the line. Halftime and although Derby were well down on the scoreboard there was a feeling that the tide had turned.

The second half saw Derby begin their effort to claw their way back into the game with continued pressure and possession inside the Burton 22. Burton held firm leading a frustrated Cook to slide in needlessly on his opposite number in the in goal area after chasing his own grubber kick for a deserved yellow card.

Burton were able to capitalise on the space left by the absent fullback, first by kicking a 50/22 and then after Derby had relieved the pressure, kicking long forcing winger Fred Sutton to take the ball into his own dead ball area and dot down to concede a 5 metre scrum.This also provided the one moment of light relief in the game as Sutton tried to con the referee by calling a mark on a ball that had bounced a least six times before he picked it up!! As comedy moments go it has relegated Peza’s phantom try into second place and will take some beating for the rest of the season.The referee was not fooled and from the resulting scrum Burton scored an unconverted try to lead 24-14.

Derby’s response was absolutely magnicent. Restored to 15 men they battered the Burton line relentlessy. In a 10 minute period they forced Burton to conceed 3 penalties for offside and were held up twice over the line . First Luke Preston whose engine is every bit as big as his frame was unlucky not to score when he appeared to ground the ball and then U16 flanker Matt Tatham flanker whose speed and power bely his size was denied by desperate Burton defence. Finally from a quick tap penalty centre Tom Pickering was able to slice through for a converted score. 24-21 to Burton.

By now Burton were rocking and in panic mode. The kicking game that had served then so well earlier in the half now only helped feed Derby’s counter attacking game. Pickering had refocused his sights and his mis-firing passing game now started to unerringly find willing runners everywhere. Mazy runs from Joe Bennet and Fran Town resulted in winger Sam Smith athetically doing a forward roll out of a tackle to sneak over in the corner for Derby to take the lead 26-24.
Burton took a deep breath, talked about a drop goal to win the game and kicked off. By now though Derby’s counter attacking game was on fire. The ball was swiftly moved to hooker Andrew Harriot, who swerved outside one defender, handed off another and simply ran through two more to find open prairie on the half way line. He still had the fullback and covering winger to beat but looking up he simply swerved to his right between the two defenders and dared them to catch him. Catch him they did, but it took them 45m metres to do it and a grateful Harriot was able crash over with two defenders on his back. This was a stunning try, and it was every bit as good as Duhan Van der Merwe’s brilliant try at Twickenham last week and a fitting way to win a thoroughly entertaining game. Sutton calmly kicked the conversion and at 33-26 the game was finally beyond a desconsolate Burton team.
Congratulations to Burton for their huge contribution to the game and also to the referee whose calmness and common sense personified helped to make this a game to remember !!