Bradford & Bingley 32, Burnage 21
The elation at Bradford & Bingley gaining maximum points did not last for long.
The Bees had done their utmost towards their SSE National League Three North survival by defeating Burnage and gaining a bonus point for four tries, putting them on 49 points.
They now needed Percy Park to lose at Firwood Waterloo, which they did 23-12 to leave them on 46 points with a game in hand, and Billingham, who were on 48, to pick up nothing at home to prospective champions Huddersfield.
Results can be a strange beast at this time of the year, however, and, although a Huddersfield victory looked a safe bet when they were leading comfortably, three tries in quick succession hauled Billingham back to a 34-28 deficit.
This demoted the Bees on two counts - firstly for losing by seven points or less and secondly for getting four tries.
“We did what we could by getting five points here,” said the Bees’ player-coach Stuart Dixon, “and we were pleased with what we did before half-time, but credit to Burnage for sticking at it in the second half.
“However, the tables don’t lie over 26 matches and we will be meeting some new clubs and making some new friends next season.
“But hopefully our stay in that division (North One East) will be a short one - and the sun will still come up tomorrow.”
A good run by centre Richard Tafa set the tone for the hosts in the first minute of a match that was played in drizzle for the most part, full back Richard Scull landing the resulting penalty.
A bullocking run by prop Jason Moss brought the Bees their first try four minutes later, Scull converting, and a massive kick downwind towards the changing rooms by fly half Phil Greaves kept the pressure on the visitors.
Flanker Adam Malthouse capitalised, and they twice threatened a third try, firstly via No 8 Simon Hill’s run down the left touchline and secondly by a good pack drive, only for control of the ball to be lost.
But Malthouse again forcefully planted the ball down for his second try in the 31st minute and the try bonus point was secured by a neat pick up off his toes by Tafa, Scull converting both for a half-time score of 29-0.
Malthouse and skipper Brett Mitchell both had great runs into the wind in the second half and Scull added a penalty in the 64th minute, but it became clear that it was just as well that the Bees had managed four tries in the first half as they rarely threatened in the second.
No 8 Ralph Lawson forced his way over for the visitors in the 53rd minute, and he was followed by outside centre Stuart Oldham - exploiting a large gap - 17 minutes later and left winger James Hodder’s interception try in the 78th minute from a Dixon pass, Hodder sweetly converting all three.
Tafa was then sin-binned for a late tackle but, although Bradford & Bingley’s prayers were answered in BD16 - their fourth win in five matches - and L23 with Waterloo, the rugby gods were not smiling on them in TS23 with Billingham.