THE RELEGATION warning level went from ‘yellow’ to ‘amber’ for the Bees after they lost 24-10 at home to Preston Grasshoppers in National League Two (North).
On a dry but bitterly cold Saturday afternoon both sides went about their business with purpose in the opening exchanges but there was more heat than light with neither side able to break the scoring stalemate.
Preston struggled to retain their lineout ball whilst fears about the Bees’ scrum, with its young and relatively inexperienced front row, proving to be largely unfounded.
It was the visitors who eventually opened the scoring shortly after the half-hour mark thanks to Lewis Allen who scored an unconverted try.
But Bees hit back shortly before the break with a try in the corner by winger Aquile Smith after some excellent work by flanker Rob Connolly. Canning’s conversion effort was creditable given the conditions but was unsuccessful.
Preston were first again on the scoreboard in the second half with tighthead prop Peter Altham crashing over in front of the posts from short range three minutes after the re-start and Allen successfully kicked the conversion to make it 12-5.
To their credit the hosts got themselves back in the game again with Smith scoring his second try and eighth in 15 appearances but Canning’s conversion was unsuccessful again as Bees moved back to within just two points.
For a brief period the Bees began to move the ball around in a manner reminiscent of their winning second half performance up at Preston back in October.
But they were left rocked after conceding two unanswered tries by Chris Taylor and Andy Napier, the first of which was converted, which took the points away from the Bees.
It was a frustrating and disappointing outcome for Eugene Martin’s side but there were some creditable individual performances for the hosts with forwards Andy Kettle and Liam Dunne impressing under difficult circumstances and veteran Rob Connolly was a constant thorn in the Grasshoppers side.
Bees will need to up their game significantly when they travel to league leaders Hull Ionians this Saturday with just five points separating them from the drop zone.