OPPOSITION inspired beyond the grave dealt Beess promotion hopes a serious blow on Saturday as the Sharmans Cross Road outfit stumbled against a robust Tynedale.Birmingham Solihull had no answer to the simple route one approach of the Geordies, who were mourning the death of 28 year old Alistair Johnson, a player left paralysed following an incident four years ago, and who died from a stroke on December 2.
Crucially Bees also chose to abandon their highly successful high tempo running game to rain tactical kicks on the visitors back three, a plan which never really troubled the north easterners and instead gave them plenty of ball to run back at the men in black.
Full credit has to go to Tynedale, said skipper Rob Connolly. Obviously they were inspired and had done their homework on us, and plainly on the day they were the better side.
Their pack came for us right from the start and their front five were very good indeed, while their No8 and skipper, Jamie Murray was excellent - they thoroughly deserved their win.
The Bees pack were nearly always on the back foot against bigger opposition with the home front row putting hooker Ben Phillips under immense pressure. Twice he brought the scrum down and twice the referee penalised Tynedale, but rather than bringing relief they changed their tactics and went for the drive, transferring the pressure point to Jim Jenner at No8.
Starved of quality ball from the set piece - the line out was hit and miss - and with much of what they got being kicked away, Bees were quickly bottled up and struggling to gain field position.
Tynedale signalled their intentions early, running a highly kickable penalty while moment later only a poor pass kept the Bees line intact.
So it was with some surprise that Bees took the lead on 17 minutes; fly half Mark Woodrow booted the ball upfield and Tynedale took it into touch. Connolly took a quick line out and centre Cameron Mitchell dived over the score.
Five minutes later it was five point apiece, Bees failing to bring down Tynedale winger Fraser Shaw as the visitors again turned the screw. Fly half Gavin Beasley then added a drop goal from fully 30 yards, cancelled out by a Woodrow penalty before Beasley kicked one himself to give the visitors an 8-11 lead at half time.
A more determined Bees came out for the second period. Early pressure led to a scrum five from where Jenner picked up to feed scrum half Rod Petty who beat three men to score. Woodrow added the conversion and then a further penalty. Ten points in two minutes - surely now Bees would pull away?
But Tynedale immediately hit back, centre Tim Visser breaking countless tackles to score with Beasley adding the two points. All square at 18-18 it was the visitors who took the initiative, Beasley adding a further drop goal, matched by a Woodrow penalty.
Everyone was expecting the bigger visitors to start tiring, but instead they took the lead again, Visser bagging his second try after the Bees back line failed to come up straight to meet a Tynedale attack. Beasley again converted.
A frantic last 15 minutes followed - Woodrow bringing Bees to 24-28 with a penalty as Bees tried desperately to find the winning try, urged on by a packed stand, but a knock on inches from the Tynedale line five minutes into injury time brought all their efforts to nothing.
Despite the result - Bees must now rely on table topping Redruth to slip up - assistant coach Eugene Martin could still manage a smile:
This has been a reality check for us - we scored 40 to 50 points in the last few games and with Redruth coming this result has brought us down to earth. We need to have a bit more belief in ourselves and work harder and smarter in future.
The result still leaves Bees in second place in National League Two, eight points behind Redruth who they play in the EDF trophy at Sharmans Cross Road this Saturday, December 13, kick off 2pm.