Bees 36-30 Northern
Bees win points fest.
The North One East table has now clearly split into a top six and a bottom eight, with only 6 points separating the side in seventh, Huddersfield YMCA, and the eleventh placed club, Percy Park. The Bees sit in the middle of that pack with three points less than YMCA and three more than Percy Park, but there will be little let up in the pressure on the Wagon Lane side over the coming weeks, as The Bees have fixtures against all the clubs surrounding them, starting with a visit to West Hartlepool next Saturday, followed by the visit of Huddersfield YMCA on Saturday February 3rd. In this game against the division's bottom club, the Bees did all they need to, running in six tries to claim maximum points, but crucially defensive laxity in time added on allowed Northern to pinch two bonus points, as they scored two tries to pull within 6 points of Martin Whitcombe's men which in the final shakedown at the end of April may be vital in deciding the relegation places in the division.
Due to the heavy conditions underfoot on the main pitch at Wagon Lane, the game was played over the river on the Second Team pitch, which despite the rain, snow and frost of recent days looked in immaculate condition for a pitch at the end of January, and it was hoped would allow the Bees to keep the ball in hand and run at their opposition.
Northern were on the scoreboard in the first minute with a penalty slotted by fly half Charlie Burrowes, but the Bees responded almost immediately through a Tom Cummins try, converted by Tanner Lightfoot in the fifth minute. Burrowes slotted a second three pointer with ten minutes played to bring the score to 7-6.
The Bees then began to lose their shape and although the stated intent was to play a high tempo running game, the home side were now guilty of some very poor kicking which gifted field position and possession to their visitors. Northern were able to capitalise on some ragged defensive alignment out wide as Jonny Woodhead trotted in for the score on 26 minutes.
The Bees tightened up their kicking game and started to run at the Northern defence with Cummins and skipper Tom Booth always managing to dent the visiting defence and keep the Bees rolling forward. With five minutes to go before half time, Dan Jeffrey was able to dart over from close range after sustained pressure.
Almost immediately from the restart the Bees were on the scoreboard again in quick succession with Lightfoot and Booth both getting over the whitewash to put the home side 22 points to 11 in front. The Bees seemed to have come out for the second half much sharper and more focussed than they had for much of the opening forty and the game appeared to be there for the taking. However, Northern refused to lie down and Alex Clark was able to pull a converted score back for the visitors.
There had been a long break in play as the Northern number eight, James Millington was stretchered off and taken to a waiting ambulance, just after half time, which may have upset the rhythm of the game for both sides. When Max Mountain galloped over for the Bees fifth try of the afternoon, converted by Dominic Walker, the Bees appeared to be firmly in control and cruising to a relatively straightforward win.
Skipper Booth added the cherry on top with a charge to the line in the 67th minute, with Walker adding the extras it was now 36 points to 18 and that should have been that. Booth left the field having injured himself during that one-man stampede to the line, but there seemed to be no reason for concern as the home side were now comfortably on top. However, full credit to the visitors who refused to stick to the script and took the game back to the Bees, who seemed to have collectively eased off after that sixth try. As time ticked past eighty minutes Northern's endeavour was rewarded with a converted score from Dan Matthews. With Northern's next foray into Bees territory, it seemed all the home side needed was someone to put boot to ball to clear their lines and end the game, but an inability to get the ball into touch gifted Northern possession and Michael Wilson was over the whitewash, with Burrowes conversion securing the losing bonus point.