BEES laid down their championship credentials for all to see in this watershed victory that propelled to the top of National League Two.
It’s significance lay not only in the quality of the opposition – Cinderford had pushed Bees to extra time in their last encounter in the EDF Trophy – but in the fact that the Sharmans Cross Road outfit finally buried the bogey that they can’t play without their talismanic player/coach Russell Earnshaw.
It was the manner of the win that stood out; with Earnshaw on England’s Sevens duty in Hong Kong and a hard and aggressive Cinderford side determined on revenge, Bees went toe to toe with the home side and slugged it out before crushing them in the second half.
Earnshaw’s assistant Eugene Martin was ecstatic: “I’m really proud of the boys, and I know Russell will be too because even though he’s on the other side of the world he’s been in constant touch with them,” he said.
“I’m particularly pleased with our front five; we knew it was going to be a physical game and their work rate was phenomenal.
“Our back row was so dominant and they kept going for the entire game, it was a tremendous performance.”
The Dockham Road Recreation Ground is an intimidating venue and Cinderford, roared on by a vocal crowd, came at Bees from the whistle.
However with a bitingly cold wind howling into the visitors’ faces peppered with the odd freezing shower, the first quarter was strewn with errors from both sides.
Then on 25 minutes Bees skipper Ben Phillips broke out of defence, fed full back Reece Spee who sped up the field before passing to scrum half Rod Petty to score.
Fly half Mark Woodrow added the conversion.
Then, as so often happens, the visitors let their guard down and two minutes later former Bees favourite and Cinderford skipper Paul Knight skipped through a non existent defence to touch down. Freddie Burns converted.
Burns then added a drop goal which was cancelled out by a Woodrow penalty to level the scores at half time.
From the re-start Bees continued to probe putting Woodrow again on the scoresheet, this time with a try, after a fine run by flanker Chris Brightwell on 57 minutes.
By now it was plain that the thumping tackles being put in on Cinderford were taking their toll and flanker Rob Connolly and Number 8 Leo Halavatou crossed with Woodrow converting both. Adam Clayton, on after the latter suffered a dead leg, completed the scoring, Woodrow again adding the extras.
This result, coupled with Redruth losing away to Tynedale 35-24, puts Bees at the top of the table, one point ahead of Redruth with two games in hand.
Cambridge lie third on 84, like Bees having played 21 games.
Next week Bees are at home to Waterloo. Kick off 3pm.