FOR the second week in a row Bradford & Bingley gave themselves a mountain to climb as they fell 27-3 in arrears just after half-time on the way to a 27-20 home defeat to Morpeth.

The previous week had seen Martin Whitcombe's side engineer an outrageous comeback to win at Percy Park, scoring 40 points in the second period, but high-flying Morpeth were too canny a side to let their 24-point advantage slip away.

The Bees did manage an excellent half hour in the second period, running in three unanswered tries to pull themselves within seven points and gain a bonus point.

The win lifted Morpeth top of the North One East table and, on this performance, they appear to deserve that position as they were the best side the Bees have faced this season.

The Wagon Lane men must now travel to second-placed Penrith and fifth-placed West Leeds in their next two fixtures – and with only six points separating the Bees from the final relegation spot, there will be little room for error if they are to try and climb the table.

Perhaps the fortunate thing is that the team will have played four of the top five away from home before Christmas, so there may be some reason for optimism that the Bees can pick up some points in the return fixtures.

Morpeth set about this game with a pace and intensity that the home side could not initially contain and were quickly into a two-try lead.

The key man was scrum half Jack Elliot, who was everywhere for the visitors, keeping the ball away from Bees defenders and injecting flashes of speed round the breakdowns which kept his side on the front foot.

He was a tough opponent for 17-year-old Alvaro Cassas to match in the Bees number nine shirt – and with Dan Jeffrey, normally the Bees' first choice scrum half, playing outside Cassas at ten, the half-backs never took control of the game and were constantly struggling to contain the livewire Elliot.

The Bees did manage to calm things down before Morpeth romped away with the game but before half-time, skipper Tom Booth was sent to the sin-bin, leaving an already stretched defence a man short.

With Booth off the field, Morpeth snatched another try right after the interval, extending their 13-3 advantage to 20-3.

A fourth try and the bonus point duly arrived in short order and it looked like the final half hour could be a very long 30 minutes for those of a Bees persuasion.

The visitors' backline had looked lively throughout, given impetus from the probings of Elliot at scrum half, but two of their tries came from forwards, with prop Tony Moody claiming one and flanker Blake Robinson dotting down for another.

Full-back Jonny Ward, who was also impressive throughout, claimed a third, with Liam Allen scoring the fourth off the bench.

The Bees changed things round, moving Jeffrey to number nine, which seemed to counter the threat of Elliot and also give the hosts a sudden impetus at half-back. Jack Malthouse slid across to take the stand-off position, with Benny Greaves coming on at full-back.

Adam Sutcliffe moved into the centres from full-back to partner Andy Walker and suddenly the Bees were starting to look in much better shape.

Tom Cummins kept up the bullocking runs through the middle to turn the defence, Booth was also carrying the ball well and it was perhaps fitting that it was the Bees skipper who claimed the first five-pointer.

Morpeth hardly had chance to regroup before Greaves darted over, moving the scoreboard on to 27-13.

There was always a worry that the Bees revival had come too late but home hopes were further increased as Walker got over the whitewash to pull his side within seven.

One concerted attack may have been enough to get the home side a draw, which arguably their much improved second-half performance merited, but it was not to be as time ran out and a single point was their only takeaway from the game.