Penrith 57 Bradford & Bingley 42
For the third week in a row the outcome of a Bees fixture hung on a crucial decision around the scrum.
With ten minutes to play, the Bees trailed 44-39 but were dominant at the set-piece, having scored two tries from scrums near the Penrith line. The Bees pack set themselves to shunt their hosts over the whitewash again but, as the scrum crumpled, the referee singled out Penrith prop Craig Rumney and sent him to the sin bin.
Penrith had exhausted their supply of front-row capable players so the game went to uncontested scrums, depriving the Bees of their primary attacking weapon.
The visitors’ momentum faltered and Penrith cleared the danger.
It would be wrong to think the Wagon Laners’ game is one-dimensional. Their back line continues to improve with ball in hand and they scored all Bees’ first-half points a sthey led 27-25 at the break.
Neil Warnock had opened the scoring for the home side after five minutes, with Steve Wood adding the first two of his 27 points on the afternoon with the conversion. Within two minutes the Bees were in front at 14-7 as Richard Tafa crashed over and then scored immediately from the restart.
A score from scrum half Dan Jeffrey kept the Bees in front as Wood chipped in with a couple of penalties.
Tom Bills added to his three conversions with a drop goal on 27 minutes but Wood matched Bills’ drop goal with a penalty.
The Bees then lost Martyn Mitchell to the sin-bin followed by a red card shown to James Morton for a dangerous tackle.
With the Bees down to 13 men, Penrith added 12 points through Wood and winger Jon Fell but Bills slotted over a penalty to reclaim the lead. Straight from the kick-off the sides were matched at 14 men apiece as the Penrith hooker was shown red for a foul on Martyn Mitchell. The loss of a player did not slow down the home side as scores from Mike Hawley and Fell put the home side ten points clear on 52 minutes.
The Bees pack were now clearly on top and skipper Guy Ford called for a scrum whenever possible. Brett Mitchell pulled five points back for the Bees only to see Penrith stretch the lead once more as Ian McDowell dotted down.
Ford crashed over from a scrum and Bills landed the conversion and, when Bees were awarded another scrum five metres from the line, it seemed inevitable they would equalise.
However, the move to uncontested scrums completely negated the Bees’ dominance and Penrith extended their lead with scores from the boot of Wood and the hat-trick score from Fell.