If the longest journeys proverbially begin with a single step, the Bees took an important stride along the road to survival in National League 2 South with an impressive 25-15 win against Dings Crusaders at Portway.
The win against mid table Dings closed the gap between the Bees and Old Redcliffians - the side just above the relegation zone – to 11 points, at the beginning of what could be a critical phase of the season.
The home side had a dream start, with winger Luke Smith using his pace to finish off a great break by Umraan Jadwat in the first minute. Jolly’s well taken conversion gave the Bees a 7-0 lead and important momentum in what was justifiably billed as a “must win” game.
Dings fly off Sam Perry and Jack Jolly traded penalties before the visitor’s blindside flanker Tom Knight meandered through the Bees defence to register the Bristol side’s first try of the afternoon after 25 minutes. Some excellent work by Matt Dight, charging down the conversion, denied Dings parity on the scoreboard.
With Knight’s openside colleague Stean Williams earning himself a yellow card, the Bees piled on the pressure in the closing stages of the first half and were rewarded with a try for Matt Spink, who was on hand to deftly take the reverse pop pass from Jolly to score with some flamboyance under the posts. The extras were safely added by the Bees’ skipper to give his side a deserved 17-8 advantage at the break.
Fourteen-man Dings managed to hold out against a sustained Bees barrage in the opening 9 minutes of the second half. It was ironic, therefore, that with Williams back on the pitch, Umraan Jadwat took the blindside option to score from an attacking scrum 5 metres out.
Despite being short with the conversion, the 22-8 lead against a beefy Dings pack showed an encouraging level of control from the Bees side.
Although Dings narrowed the gap to seven points with 25 minutes to go with a try by replacement Josh Trinham, converted by scrum half Steve Plummer, there was no sign of panic in the home side ranks.
Instead, Jolly wisely took the three points on offer from a penalty to extend the lead to two scores and then adeptly, through organised and disciplined defence repelled a final push from the Crusaders. Late pressure from the home side failed to yield an icing on the cake fourth try bonus point, but players, performance team and home spectators were pleased enough with the four league points bagged in the 25-15 win.
The performance put in by all those that wore the Bees shirt was outstanding, against a Dings Crusaders side who played their part in serving up a highly entertaining contest. The Bees’ set piece was excellent –resources available required the front row of Willis, Pearl and Bingham to play a full 80 minutes and the scrum was solid all afternoon, whilst Danny Wright was peerless at the line out.
Encouraged by this victory, Pete Glackin’s squad face a tricky away trip down to the West Country this coming weekend (Saturday 12th January KO 2.30pm) to play fourth placed Taunton Titans.
Bees v Dings Crusaders: 1. Alex Willis, 2. Stewart Pearl, 3. Nick Bingham, 4. Andy Weaver, 5. Matt Spink (T), 6.Danny Wright, 7.Michael Stephens, 8.Umraan Jadwat (T), 9. Jack Jolly (C) (2P,2C), 10. Harry O’Brien, 11 Matt Dight, 12. Jimmy Oliver, 13.Dan Kelly,14.Luke Smith (T) 15, Ben Phillips.
Replacements: 16. Ashley Scriven, 17. Marcus Brown, 18. Keenan Copper, 19. Ed Krawiecki,20. Adam Nunney.
Referee:- Tim Allatt, ARs Leo Burton, Matthew Shepherd