A GRITTY performance with a dash of magic from winger Alex O’Malley secured a second win on the trot for the Bees, as they overcame Longton 15-23 up in Stoke on Trent on Saturday.
In becalmed conditions on a good surface at Trentham Fields, the Bees found themselves 5-0 down with just five minutes on the clock.
However, Bees fly half Jack Jolly – who had an solid afternoon from the kicking tee – was immediately able to narrow the deficit to 5-3, when the visitors were awarded a penalty from the restart.
The visiting forwards then began to grind through the gears and their industry was rewarded 13 minutes in with skipper Chris Goddard driven over the Longton try line, following a textbook driving maul from an attacking line out. Jolly’s boot proved accurate again, eking out a 5-10 lead.
Despite having the lion’s share of the possession, frustratingly Longton were able to loosen the visitors’ grip on the game and their dangerous backline featuring Kiwi debutant Tumanawapohatu Tawhai began to move the ball and provide a rigorous examination of the Bees’ defence.
With the referee now engaging in a level of whistle-blowing normally only heard at New Street Station, it was only a matter of time before a yellow card was produced – winger Jimmy Oliver taking the rap for his team’s collective sins. Down to 14 men, Longton’s forward effort finally yielded a try for second row Joe Clowes, following a well executed driving maul. Grant Hallam then made it in one out of three to give the home side a 12-10 advantage at the break.
Despite being a man down for the first six minutes of the second period, the Bees managed to engineer a 12-13 lead thanks to another Jolly penalty.
It was then Longton’s turn to try and up the pace, in what was increasingly becoming a see-saw sort of encounter. Hallam and Jolly traded penalties to take the score line to 15-16, but neither side was seemingly able to break through well-organised defensive lines.
The home support became agitated when the referee adjudged that the ball hadn’t been properly grounded following another powerful driving maul from the Longton pack. Their consternation was further compounded when the touch judges were to be in disagreement as to whether the resulting penalty kick had gone wide or not. The referee sided with the visiting flag bearer and was then forced to have words with the Longton dugout regarding the ophthalmic competence of their chosen volunteer.
In a game where quality had been in relatively short supply thus far, Bees’ winger Alex O’Malley was on hand to deliver a match winning try courtesy of a scorching 40 metre run,wrong footing several Longton defenders in the process. With the Jolly conversion extending the lead to 15-23, the Bees were now, crucially, two scores ahead
Try as they might, Longton could find no way through a resolute and disciplined Bees’ defence in the final 8 minutes. The men in gold therefore were able to secure a hard-won and, on balance, merited victory.
The Bees will be looking to make it three wins in a row when they welcome Newport (Salop) to Portway this Saturday (10th October, 3pm kick off).