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Bradford & Bingley's' defensive frailties need to be addressed
Burnage 46, Bradford & Bingley 12
The opening fixture of the SSE Nationnal League Three North season was always going to be a difficult prospect for Henry Paul’s side as Bradford & Bingley faced the dual challenge of bedding in six debutants in their match-day squad and playing on Burnage's artificial pitch.
With new faces starting at seven, eight, nine and ten for the visitors, it might be to be expected that there would be the odd miscommunication or wrong option as the ball moved from forwards to backs.
However, the single biggest factor in the margin of the Bees defeat was defensive misalignment and a couple of instances of extremely weak tackling.
This is to take nothing away from the home side, who without doubt deserved to win but the wall of ghosts which appeared to be the visiting defence at times gifted Burnage three of their scores.
Their quick and abrasive style of play and their ability to use the nuances of their home ground superbly will make Burnage formidable opponents for anyone visiting their ground at Battersea Road, Stockport this season.
The hosts were superbly marshalled from fly half by Ross Winney, but the men inside and outside him at scrum half and inside centre were a constant threat as the ball was swiftly recycled from the breakdown.
The Bees began both halves brightly and were on top in the early exchanges but in the first half the cruellest of bounces deprived the Wagon Lane men of a chance to open the scoring, and almost immediately a second strange deviation of the ball as it flew up off the surface let in Burnage for the opening score.
Possibly on another day the Bees would have kicked on from an early opening score, but instead found themselves in arrears early on, with the home side able to use those initial moments of good fortune to settle into the game and take it forcibly to their opponents.
In the second half, the opening five minutes appeared to be all Bees, but then two quick steps infield from the Burnage left winger caused the whole defence to freeze and the player was able to zip over untouched.
This left the visitors 32 points adrift, and with 35 minutes of the second half to play the Bees could not let their heads drop as the home side could have piled on the agony from this juncture forwards.
It was not to be, however, as the Bees stepped up a gear on both sides of the ball and there appeared to be several reasons for optimism for the rest of the season as the Yorkshire side really made a game of it, although from a 32-point deficit.
That gap increased to 39 after 51 minutes as absentees in the defensive line allowed Burnage to plough through.
As the hour mark approached, with Bees scrum half Kirk Arundale starting to show some of his pedigree and his half-back partner Tom Bills also picking up the pace of the game, the Bees finally got on the scoresheet.
The forwards began to recycle the ball with far more urgency and after a concerted spell close to the home line, new skipper, Brett Mitchell, drove over.
With 20 minutes to play, possibly the only hope the Bees had was that they might score four times to claim a bonus point, and while the attacking part of the game was clearly now starting to function, a familiar defensive frailty allowed Burnage in again, pushing the home side into a 46-5 lead.
The Bees continued to try and attack, principally down the left wing, with Adam Wellington showing pace and power up that touchline.
From the next Bees thrust up that wing, Burnage were reduced to 14 men as their right winger made no attempt to tackle Benny Greaves and poleaxed the veteran centre with a short-arm smash.
This was not his first offence in the game of this nature and the official should have wielded a straight red, but shied away from that sanction, although ten minutes left to play his removal via a yellow had the same material effect on the game.
The Bees attacked up the middle of the field, and a touch of pace from Bills took him right through the heart of the home defence. Sensing Wellington was charging up the left-hand touchline in support, Bills kicked neatly towards that corner and Wellington was on hand to gather and dot down.
The defeat leaves the Bees at the foot of the table after week one, but the defensive weaknesses shown here will surely be addressed before Huddersfield are the visitors to Wagon Lane next week.
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