At times it wasn’t pretty, but the hard won 10-15 away win at Barnes was a welcome shot in the arm for an embattled Bees, as the four points took them off the bottom of National League 2 South.
Two well taken tries – one in each half, plus five points from boot of Jack Jolly, coupled with a much-improved defensive display, was the difference between the two sides on a gloomy winter’s afternoon in South West London.
It had been a difficult week for Pete Glackin’s side, after an abject performance and loss to Bury St Edmunds the previous week at Portway. The win said much about the character of the whole squad and gives the Bees a platform to build upon in the second half of the season.
The much travelled and -at times long-suffering - Bees supporters could have had doubts when Barnes, albeit it rather fortuitously, bagged the opening score after 7 minutes. Busy scrum half Franklin collected a ball that seemingly had gone into to touch and beat the cover tackle on the right wing to score.
The Bees countered, and their pressure yielded a yellow card for Barnes full back Tom O’Toole for a high tackle on Bees winger Mike Ho. Six minutes later, Ho’s partner in pace Luke Smith was on hand to finish off a well-executed back line move to dot the ball down in the right hand corner, evening things up on the scoreboard.
There was more heat than light in the remaining 20 minutes of the first half, although the Bees had the lion’s share of possession. Knowing that it would be a tight game, captain Jack Jolly opted to take three penalty shots at goal, all at the edge of his range finder. With just one kick successful, the Bees went in 5-8 to the good at the break.
The home side were able to strike early after the interval – a line out inside the Bees’ 22 saw Barnes recycle the ball three times before moving the ball out wide, where winger Robbie Martay was ready to add 5 points to his name. However, fly half Josh Hammett was again unable to add the extras.
It took the Bees just 5 minutes to get back in front – No.8 Umraan Jadwat finishing off an excellent passage of play from an attacking scrum. With the conversion safely slotted by Jolly, the Bees had a 10-15 advantage.
The rest of the game saw two sides testing out each other’s defences, with both guilty of making handling errors. Barnes were particularly profligate with their line out ball – greater accuracy in this area would have undoubtedly given them at least a draw.
Indeed With the game in its dying embers, it seemed that the home side would find a way through and snatch parity or even a win at the death. But there was still just enough gas in the tank, mixed in with plenty of good old-fashioned Bees’ ‘dog’, to hold out to the final whistle and secure that all important win and, with it, four league points.
With London Irish Wild Geese losing heavily at Old Albanian, the Bees now sit second to bottom of the table on 16 points by virtue of a better points difference. Guernsey, who lost 10-17 at home to Henley Hawks, are on 18 league points. Old Redcliffians’ impressive 33-22 win against Worthing Raiders has opened up a five-point gap between them and the Channel Islanders.
In the final game before the Christmas break, the Bees welcome league leaders Rams to Portway this weekend (Saturday 15th December KO 2.30pm). The Reading-based side has lost just one of their opening 14 games of the season and therefore will pose a challenge of an altogether different nature.
Bees v Old Barnes: 1. Joe Foreman, 2. Stewart Pearl, 3. Matt Probert, 4. Keenan Cooper, 5. Danny Wright, 6. Ashley Scriven, 7. Marcus Brown, 8. Umraan Jadwat (T), 9. Jack Jolly (C) (P,C), 10. Ben Phillips. 11 Mike Ho, 12. Nathan Tilsley, 13. Adam Nunney, 14.Luke Smith (T), 15 Matt Dight.
Replacements: 16. Alex Willis, 17. Zane Raimondi, 18. Ed Krawiecki, 19. Sean O’Sullivan, 20. Jimmy Oliver.
Referee:- Jack Sutton