Bees get the job done against lowly Longton
Sixteenth successive win keeps Bees in pole position
The Bees kept their remarkable unbeaten run going with a 22-0 win against league strugglers Longton, although they will be disappointed in not securing a try bonus point.
Ten points in the first half – a try from Steve Johns and a penalty and conversion from Max Rodman, plus a further 12 points in the second half courtesy of a self-converted try by Rodman and a touch-down for Harry O’Brien were enough to get the job done for the Bees.
Although the Portway pitch was in good condition pre-match, persistent rain during the game created progressively heavy conditions, which turned the game into an arm wrestle in the mud come the second half.
Another defensive tour de force by the home side – which included being camped on their own line for a fifteen-minute spell when Danny Wright was in the sin bin – plus three well finished tries were probably the highlights of a game which otherwise offered little in entertainment value for the die-hard spectators present.
There was little subtly in Longton’s game plan, which was to play eight-man rugby, deploying their only weapon – their big pack. It was a strategy that failed outright on the day, as they managed neither to out muscle a well organised and resolute Bees’ defence nor post a single point on the scoreboard.
A growing injury list had prompted forwards’ coach Stewart Pearl to shuffle his pack pre-match, giving a debut to openside flanker Marcus Brown who has come to the club on loan from Cinderford. Young lock forward Keanan Cooper also featured for a full 80 minutes for the first time, with Chris Thompson on the bench. All three acquitted themselves well, as did the whole 18-man squad in somewhat challenging conditions – especially in the second half.
And whilst there was little in the way of “champagne rugby” to light up a wet and dank February afternoon, the performance and result should be seen in the wider context of the season, with every side now determined to end the Bees’ unbeaten run which now stretches to sixteen games – a feat currently unequalled in English rugby.
There will, however, some aspects of the game which may give the Bees’ backroom staff some food for thought in training this week.
Firstly, the game and the bonus point could and probably should have been secured in the first half, as the home side failed to put away a number of chances in the final 10 minutes of the half.
Secondly, in terms of discipline, the side picked up another three yellow cards this week (Matt Spink, Danny Wright and Steve Johns), equalling the tally picked up in last week’s game against Lichfield.
Finally, whilst the side have now scored 104 tries to date in 16 games, the recent strike rate has been decreasing.
With nearest rivals Peterborough Lions defeating third-placed Newport Salop but failing themselves to pick up a try bonus, the Bees maintain their three-point league at the top of the Midlands Premier League with three games in hand and 10 games to play.
Having successfully seen off Longton, the Bees now have three consecutive away games in prospect, as they play catch up on their fixture list backlog. Next week’s trip up the M6 to Sandbach (Saturday 11th February, KO 2.15pm) is a rescheduling of a fixture that was postponed due to snow in December.
Bees v Longton - 1. Joe Foreman, 2. Zane Raimondi, 3. Matt Probert, 4. Keanan Cooper, 5. Matt Spink (YC), 6. Danny Wright (YC), 7. Marcus Brown, 8, Umraan Jadwat, 9. Jack Jolly ©, 10. Max Rodman (T,P,2C), 11. Steve Johns (T,YC), 12. Nathan Tilsley, 13. Jimmy Oliver, 14. Tawanda Chipadza, 15. Harry O’Brien (T), 16. Kurtis Payne, 17. Chris Thompson & 18. Ben Phillips.
Referee: - Peter Caunt