Counties One Yorkshire: Bradford & Bingley 7 Keighley 36
BRADFORD & Bingley’s hopes of a derby victory over Keighley were punctured inside 25 minutes.
The third-placed visitors had scored three tries by then in front of a large crowd across the river at Aire View, standing water in front of the changing rooms having rendered the first XV pitch unplayable.
Keighley, better drilled and fitter, bagged first-half tries by wingers Allan Ebbrell and Jack Atkinson, prop Craig Spencer and centre Adam Horsfall before adding efforts by centre Alfie Seeley and replacement winger Sam Blakeley after the interval.
Atkinson, taking over kicking duties from fly-half Alex Brown, who was protecting a hamstring injury, added three conversions.
Basement boys the Bees improved in the second half as they built their phases but had to wait until the last minute to get on the non-existent scoreboard with a penalty try.
However, the hosts were not happy with North Yorkshire & Cleveland Society referee Pablo Costa’s performance in the first half, particularly the opening 20 minutes.
Back-rower Jim Nicholas, again the only Bees forward who regularly broke tackles, said: “A few tough decisions didn’t go our way when I don’t think the referee was looking on our side of the story, but there was a lack of momentum by us and consistent phases of play weren’t coming together.
“We were trying our best to get off the line and got penalised for it – seven or eight times in a row for offside so should we just have not got a yellow card, but we didn’t listen to the referee enough or play to him.
“We would try and kick for territory and balls would not make it out, so it was a game of ‘nearlys’.
“Also, it didn’t help that we were missing Luke Spauls at hooker for the line-outs, which proved a bit of a killer so we had to put a loose forward and former prop in at hooker, but we can’t blame him (Alex Leadbetter) after just two practice sessions on line-outs.”
Nicholas, who came off with an ankle injury early in the second half, added: “In the second half the scoreline was 10-7, so we realised that we were doing a bit too much in the first half and just went back to the basics.
“Our coach Carl (Patterson) said at half-time that we weren’t playing with enough venom and that when we conceded a try it would take us five minutes to get back into it, so we went back to the structure that got us a win against Harrogate Pythons the other week.
“We kept them at bay with our territorial kicks in the second half and our structure came more to fruition, but all credit to Keighley, who played well, and I am just glad that there weren’t any scraps or red cards and that every player could walk away from the game.”
Reflecting on the Pythons match two weekends prior, which ended Bradford & Bingley’s losing league streak at 56 matches, Nicholas said: “It was a nervy finish.
“We looked at each other with 10 minutes to go leading 10-8 and we were more scored of losing then than happy to win it, but I managed to turn the ball over with five minutes left and we got an extra three points to seal the deal.
“It was an emotional few minutes of rugby after that score and when the referee blew the final whistle a few of our lads were crying. It was amazing and Dom Walker, our No 10, got man of the match for playing territory.”
Nicholas added: “When we have a few lads back at training we can do a bit more, but we have lads injured or on holiday. We tend to regularly miss four or five lads from our 25-man squad for training and matches, and on Tuesday we only had eight down to training, which needs to be higher.
“However, we did manage to get a Barbarians squad out to face Halifax the other week, so the numbers are there.”
Thankfully for Nicholas and his ankle, the Bees now have a week off before traveling to Leodiensian on Saturday, December 2, when Spauls should be available.