Bees 12 Sedgley Park 32
FOR 17 minutes Bees played sublime, 15-man rugby, into the teeth of a gale. They scored two tries but in truth could have plundered four as forwards linked with backs in intricate support play and inter-passing heaven.
Dominating possession, a neat grubber kick from fly half Mark Woodrow nearly put Gregg Evans over but the centre, at full stretch, just knocked on.
Then Ollie Winter almost got on the end of a cross field punt from the No10 as Bees threatened to run riot.
A try had to come, and when it did – on 10 minutes - it was a glorious thing to behold; a break by full back Jon Lowden, the ball passing through no end of hands to centre Rob Connolly and finally to Jack Pons on the wing to touchdown.
Woodrow missed the difficult conversion but Bees were up and running.
Two minutes later Evans doubled their account, a charge by skipper Mark Hopley, supported by Connolly, then Pons and finally to Evans who bounced off his tackler, spun round and rolled over to score. Woodrow made no mistake with the conversion.
Then suddenly it stopped, almost as if Bees realised that basement boys shouldn’t be playing rugby like title contenders. The confidence visibly drained off and they started to kick away possession, breaking the cardinal rule of playing into a breeze - keeping it in the hands.
The visitors, suddenly finding themselves with some ball, booted it down field where, from a set scrum, a simple run-around by fly half Simon Parrott put winger Jamie Harrison over on 17 minutes. The conversion was missed.
A penalty from winger Gregg Smith reduced arrears further to 12-10 before Park took the lead – centre Matt Riley, who caused no end of mayhem in midfield - made a break and Parrott sprinted away, brushing off Joel Dudley’s tackle to score under the posts. Smith made no mistake with the extras.
With the tide of play flowing against them Bees then give away a gilt edged chance to level the score; Four minutes into the second period skipper Hopley opted to scrum an eminently kickable penalty which would have made it 15-15.
The scrum move came to nothing and seconds later Bees were staring at 12-20 after Park’s scrum half Will Runciman scored under the posts following a powerful drive from No8 Juan Crous.
Smith converted and from then on Bees were chasing the gamet - a situation compounded by a yellow card on 53 minutes after a frustrated Jack Preece committed one too many misdemeanour.
Despite this Bees were still creating chances, flanker Chris Brightwell having an exceptional game, guilty only of outrunning his support, while silly knock ons cost the home side promising field positions.
Riley then rubbed salt into the wound with a fine individual try which Smith again converted.
Too late, a Woodrow penalty brought Bees to 15, a score cancelled out by Park’s Smith as the visitors ran down the clock.
Bees had blown it and only had themselves to blame so it was disappointing to hear referee Shane Lewis come in for a hard time from fans at the final whistle.
Director of rugby Russell Earnshaw was non-plussed by the Jekyll and Hyde performance of his team.
“We went away from our game plan,” he said. “For the first 20 odd minutes we were competitive and had no end of chances, and then we started kicking the ball.
“In the second half we just couldn’t keep hold of the ball, but there’s still a long way to go in the season and it’s not over yet.”