Bees 24-29 Bridlington
Bees almost complete comeback in breathless finale
THIS contest, which was one of only two in the North One East division to survive the cold snap, had a thrilling finish.
However, that looked most unlikely when the visitors led 26-5 at half-time after a lacklustre opening 40 minutes from the hosts.
But, playing towards the changing rooms, Bradford & Bingley built up a head of steam against a side who used all of their replacements covering for injuries.
Martin Whitcombe's Bees were pressing for a try that would have drawn them level and the conversion that would have given them a surprise victory.
Nevertheless, the visitors left Wagon Lane with five points to climb two places to fourth, while the Bees, who earned two points for a narrow loss and for scoring four tries, remained four points clear of a relegation berth.
Bradford & Bingley hooker Mat Cochrane, who ended the day by having his engagement party in the clubhouse, said: "We didn't deserve anything more than two points.
"You cannot expect to start like that and expect to win, although we did well to come back.
"We had a bad first 20 minutes and tackled poorly, but we gave it our all in the second half."
With the Bees only an ordinary win away from going down, relegation could be in the back of their minds with half of the season gone.
However, Cochrane dismissed that notion, saying: "We have a lot of the lower sides to play at home in the second half of the season."
Bridlington suffered injuries to lock Dewi Roberts (twisted ankle), flanker Gary Heeley (possible fractured wrist or radius) and winger Gary Stevens (thigh), which could keep them out for weeks, and these rather disrupted their efforts.
Roberts said: "They are all key positions, and it meant that we used up all of our replacements.
"We got 26 points in the first half but only three in the second half.
"Our first-half performance was very good, but they came back at us well and deserved to get their bonus points.
"However, we reckon we can finish third in the table."
A minute's silence was observed before kick-off for James Etherington, whose family was in attendance and whose death has hit the Bingley community hard.
But it didn't look as if the Bees were going to mark the occasion by picking up any league points.
Superb continuity brought the visitors their first try in the fourth minute, with centre Sizwe Zondo making the break for Roberts and scrum half Otis Floyd to then combine and put lock Patrick Waines over.
Full back Stevie Mellonby slotted the conversion, and Waines was over again four minutes later as Brid again showed their power, Mellonby's conversion attempt this time bouncing back off the near upright.
A charged-down kick then gave the Bees the chance to hit back, with No 8 Tom Cummins going on a destructive arcing run before putting skipper Tom Booth in for a try, with Cummins missing the conversion.
However, Cummins' clearing kick in the 13th minute was run back by fly half Matthew Welch for Waines to complete a quickfire hat-trick, with Mellonby again converting to make it 19-5.
Bridlington then lost Roberts and Heeley injured in quick succession, but the changes did not give the Bees much respite.
Visiting skipper Jamie Martin – son of watching former Bees player Dale – bagged the bonus-point try in the 26th minute, Mellonby again converting to put them 26-5 ahead.
The hosts had a late chance to bag a second try when the visitors conceded a penalty and were then marched back a further ten metres by referee Dave Downham for dissent.
However, a promising situation was ended by a knock-on, which rather summed up their first half.
After an opening half that had been punctuated by snow flurries, the temperature seemed to rise in the second half, and so did Bradford & Bingley's performance.
Cochrane went over on the right in the 46th minute in front of the 'hill', with Cummins missing the conversion from near the right touchline.
With the Bees showing some potency in the rolling maul, they were held up over the line in the 58th minute, but were awarded a penalty try two minutes later to put them within bonus-point range at 26-17 down.
Bridlington then wisely opted to play keep ball for ten minutes to take the sting out of the home attack, but they did more than that as Mellonby slotted a 75th-minute penalty.
A minute later, Floyd was yellow carded for going off his feet, and the Bees then blew a try-scoring chance.
Centre Andy Walker broke down the left wing but his pass to Adam Sutcliffe went behind the full back.
With Bridlington flagging, the home side got it right in the 78th minute when replacement Max Mountain skilfully picked his way through the visitors' defence to set up a try for Cummins, who also added the conversion to bring the Bees back within five points.
They had all the momentum now, but wrongly opted not to keep the ball in the forwards, and blew their last opportunity by knocking the ball on in what was a breathless finish.
Article curtesy of The Telegraph and Argos