West Hartlepool 38-12 Bees
Bees fail on the road again.
The Bees attempt to keep the signing of former Parramatta Eels player Fuifui Moimoi under wraps failed miserably as the news of his signing spread on social media. The Bees were able to pull off this signing through the friendship of Bees second team coach and fellow Tongan, Richard Tafa with the Rugby League legend.
Martin Whitcombe had wanted the former New Zealand and Tonga International's arrival in the Bees midfield to be a bit of a surprise for West Hartlepool, and even if they had picked up the news that he was playing from online gossip, the big man announced his arrival in no uncertain terms as he blasted towards the home line with his first touch of the ball. Unfortunately, having spilled the ball in contact, the ball was gifted to the lively home backs and with both sides scattered across the field, there was only a scrambled defence available to the Bees which could not prevent the home backs running free to the other end of the field. West's centre Liam Checksfield galloped the 95 metres from under his own posts to the tryline and with an easy conversion it was 7 nil to the home side with under two minutes played.
It didnt take the home side long to double their advantage as a clearance kick was fielded by Gavin Painter, who exchanged passes with Zac Southern before galloping home unopposed. The kicking game has been a constant problem for the Bees this season and it was hoped that the arrival of Tanner Lightfoot in the half backs might cure this particular problem. Lightfoot has undoubtedly brought something to the Bees backline with his organisational and running skills, but for the moment, the problems with putting a clean boot on the ball remain.
The Bees were playing into the icy breeze in the first forty and having settled into the game after allowing Wests a 14 point advantage, it appeared that it was all still to play for as a Tom Booth break put teenage flanker Louis Fraser over for a score. Whitcombe said after the game "getting to half time and being only ten points adrift, I thought we were all set to get something from this game. I had been worried before hand that the number of changes we were forced to make for this after a good win over Northern would be very disruptive because despite their lowly league position, there is no doubt that West Hartlepool is one of the toughest places to come and get some points. They have won five and drawn one of their eight home games before today, which is more like a top five club's form, not bottom five. From our perspective, the constant changes to the side is perhaps the major problem facing us at the moment. We need to get more consistency from week to week; I really believe we have a squad and a spirit within the squad that can pull us away from the relegation battle. Getting a player like FuiFui in the short term should be a great boost for us, but I think the core of players we have remains strong enough to sort things out and I really thought at half time the boys had put themselves in a position to come away with a bonus point or two, if not the win, but we lost our way in the second forty and it was very disappointing how it finished up".
Two areas of the Bees' game which have held up well in nearly every game this season have been the scrum and lineout, but almost from first to last, it was the home side who were clearly on top in both areas. The forwards got in on the scoring act as number eight Andy Turner barrelled over and then set up a score for the other Painter brother, Ryan Painter. With a fifth score arriving on 70 minutes, Painter claiming a second five pointer, it was now 33-5 to the home side and The Bees had faded badly as the half wore on.
There was still some life in the Bees evidently as MoiMoi again blasted forward into the West's defence. He just failed to make the whitewash, but Dan Jeffrey was on hand to tidy up and claim the score. As time ticked into the ffinal few seconds, the home side were able to wrap up a six try victory as wingman, Will Hilditch, was able to slide in headfirst at the corner.
The result lifts West Hartlepool out of the bottom three and only a point behind the Bees, but with a game in hand. That game in hand is at West Leeds, and with West Hartlepool yet to win away from home this season, that could be a crucial game in deciding the relegation placings.