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Ford's focus drives Bradford and Bingley towards safety
Bradford & Bingley 52 West Hartlepool 27
In a performance that was more good than bad, Bradford & Bingley gave themselves an important leg up in their SSE National Three North survival battle.
They appeared to be in charge when they led bottom club West Hartlepool 23-7 after just 25 minutes but by half-time the advantage was only 23-22.
There were still some anxieties when the score had become 33-27 after 58 minutes but the Bees pulled away in the last 20 minutes with three further tries.
They have now hauled themselves 12 points ahead of Birkenhead Park, who are third from bottom and in the last of the three relegation places.
Bradford & Bingley skipper Guy Ford, who ended up with four tries and the man of the match award, is not getting carried away, however.
He said: “I reckon we need to win three more matches to be certain of staying up but at least it is in our own hands, although we have a tough run-in.
“We still have the top four teams to play (leaders Chester, second-placed Harrogate andf third-placed Sandal away and fourth-placed Percy Park at home) and have a lot of hard work to do.”
As for the match itself, Ford said: “It was a must-win game but at half-time it felt like they (West Hartlepool) shouldn’t be in the game.
“However, they had nothing to lose (they are 14 points from safety) and we were not dominating at the breakdown but Tom Kanouros was elusive and a livewire for us at scrum half.”
On an afternoon that was made for attacking rugby, both sides seemed to pay more heed to that side of the game than defence.
Full back Tom Bills put the Bees ahead with a second-minute penalty, and Ford was over for his first three minutes later, flirting with the right-hand touchline on a powerful run.
While West Hartlepool would have been disappointed at not tackling Ford into touch, the Bees would have been equally concerned as to how they let West scrum half Ryan Painter spin out of a tackle in the 11th minute to score, fly half Stuart Waites’ conversion making it 8-7.
Bills landed a penalty and converted Ford’s second try before a choice team try finished off by centre Richard Tafa put the hosts in clear water at 23-7.
However, the outcome was clouded again before half-time when centre Colin Cheslin and No 8 Jon Boatman crossed for the visitors, Waites adding a conversion and a penalty to cut the deficit to a point.
Another Bills penalty early in the second half was followed by an Adam Wellington try on the left, Bills converting for 33-22.
West were then handed a gift when Tafa dropped the ball behind his own line for replacement Alex Barker to score.
But the Bees finished strongly, hooker Matt Cochrane celebrating his 22nd birthday with a try and Ford completing his quartet of touchdowns, two Bills conversions taking his personal tally to 17 points.