Impressive win bolsters Bees’ survival chances
By Richard Smith
Seven try triumph narrows the gap to six points
After what was, by general consensus, their best performance of the season, the Bees overcame a dangerous Old Albanian side to notch up a 45-32 win. In doing so, they gave their League 2 survival hopes a significant shot in the arm.
The impressive win narrowed the gap between them and safety to 6 points, with closest relegation rivals Dings Crusaders beating Old Redcliffians 22-17 in the Bristol derby to leave Old Reds in the Bees sights.
It was a glorious spring afternoon at Portway and the Bees, at times, played some sparkling rugby befitting of the conditions. A week off for the final round of Six Nations games had seemingly refreshed the squad both physically and mentally.
A rejuvenated Zane Raimondi opened the scoring with just three minutes on the clock, but the visitors responded well with a converted try by flanker Tobias Munday and a penalty for fly half Daniel Watt, to give Old As a 5-10 lead 14 minutes in.
In their eagerness to secure a bonus point, the Bees spurned an easy 3 points in favour of an attacking scrum. This seemingly back fired after some good work in the tight by Old As, but patient play by the home side eventually yielded a score for centre Nathan Tilsley, who was one of many players in the black and gold who had a stand out game.
The home side’s lead was further extended after a trademark Umraan Jadwat try, scything through the Albanian defence to score under the posts. Successful Jolly conversions had turned a five-point deficit into a 19-10 lead on the half hour mark.
The entertainment was far from over yet for the half, with Watt slotting a penalty before Tilsley bagged his second try of the afternoon after some expansive play involving forwards and backs alike. Jolly’s fine kicking form continued to stretch the lead to 26-13, but a defensive slip allowed Old As centre Charlie Watson through for a try just before the break, easily converted by Watt to keep the visitors very much in touch at 26-20.
Although the Bees had much the better of the first 40 minutes, the half time score-line didn’t reflect this, so it was important that Pete Glackin’s men struck first in the second period. With Old A’s knocking on from the restart, the Bees capitalised from the resulting scrum with Umraan Jadwat proving unstoppable from close range.
As belief began to course through the home side’s veins, well-orchestrated by Harry O’Brien at No.10 they began to play with some real zip and verve. Two tries in eight minutes for centre Dan Kelly, both converted by Jolly, put the Bees in a commanding 45-20 lead with 20 minutes to go.
Recent Calcutta Cup events at Twickenham the have perhaps taught sides to be wary. However, although the St Alban’s side scored two late tries to secure their bonus point – one for winger Chalcroft and one for prop Sam McQueen who charged down a clearance kick - in truth the Bees never looked like losing control of the game.
The performance that delivered the five-point win was as important as the win itself, but the Bees will be under no illusions of the scale of the task that still lies ahead of them. The “one game at a time” mantra will be key over the remaining four games, as we reach the denouement of the season.
This week’s game away at Bury St Edmunds (Saturday 30th March KO 3pm) is another tough test but is, on the evidence of the performance against Old Albanian, one within the reach of an improving Bees side.
Bees v Old Albanian: 1. Joe Foreman, 2. Zane Raimondi, 3. Nick Bingham, 4. Andy Weaver, 5. Keenan Cooper, 6. Ashley Scriven, 7. Marcus Brown, 8. Umraan Jadwat (T), 9. Jack Jolly © (5C), 10. Harry O’Brien, 11 Matt Dight, 12. Nathan Tilsley (2T), 13. Dan Kelly (2T), Oscar Heath, 15, Corey Venus.
Replacements: 16. JP Nel, 17. Stewart Pearl, 18. Matt Spink, 19. Taraiasi Wara, 20. Adam Nunney.
Referee:- Ben Rayner, ARs Bryan Ravenhill & Stephen Gammage