Bradford & Bingley 17 West Hartlepool 12

WITH no front line goal kicker and the lineout malfunctioning badly, the Bees were forced to run the ball from everywhere and in the end were fortunate to scrape a win against a well organised West Hartlepool side who were excellent in defence throughout.

The Bees turned down three straight forward looking kicks at goal, which might have given the home side a way to get points on the scoreboard and nudge them in front before the two tries in the final 20 minutes which ultimately sealed the win for Hugh Gumbs' men.

There was some doubt in the validity of both those Bees scores and on another day, both tries might have not counted had the referee seen either incident differently.

In the first instance, as the game moved past the hour mark, Tom Cummins made a surge for the line from a couple of metres out. Accompanying the Bees Number 8 over the line were a number of West Hartlepool defenders who appeared to have flipped Cummins onto his back as he reached the whitewash.

Home supporters in that corner, in front of the clubhouse, were not totally convinced that the ball had hit the whitewash before Cummins was turned, but the referee was right on the spot to award the score.

That try pushed the Bees into a 10-7 lead, but the game was far from over. After Ben Armstrong pulled back a score for the visitors on 65 minutes, a moment of individual brilliance from Bees centre, Jack Malthouse, saw the Bees regain the lead with eight minutes to play.

Having collected the ball some thirty metres out, Malthouse set off on a jinking run to the line. Having apparently escaped the clutches of the visitors' defence, it appeared that Malthouse had enough left in his legs to reach the try-line, with a final defender pursuing him back towards the posts.

At the very moment Malthouse reached the line he was tackled by that West Hartlepool defender. The Bees number 13 reached backwards over his head to dot down, but as the ball hit the ground, there appeared to be a distinct wobble as the Malthouse reached out to score.

Without the benefit of video technology, the referee's view is the only one that counts and the home side were back in front at 15-12. Ben Hockenhull stepped up to knock the conversion over to give his side a five-point cushion.

The visitors then came right back at the Bees and gained an upper hand as the clock ticked on into time added on. With more than 10 minutes of time added on, the visitors found themselves right on the Bees line, in the bottom left hand corner of the field.

With a final concerted push, a couple of West Hartlepool players were over the home line. Desperate defence from the Bees saw a home defender somehow wriggle underneath the pile up in that corner and prevent the score.

Wests had opened the scoring in the 21st minute as their fly half, Ollie Connolly, found himself some space close to the line and slipped a well timed pass to Lewis Scott outside him to cross for the five pointer.

Zac Southern improved the score to put West Hartlepool seven points in front.

The Bees were playing down the slight slope and largely had their visitors pinned in their half throughout the first period.

On 29 minutes their pressure was rewarded, with Ben Hockenhull getting on the end of a move out wide on the left to score. It was 5-7 as the sides turned round and with no recognised kicker in the side and no-one apparently willing to put boot to ball for the Bees, the home side struggled to clear their lines for much of the second period.

There were intermittent moments of quality shown by the Bees, but as a number of the decent runs they made were from deep inside their half, they were not threatening to turn possession into points for long periods.

Even when Tom Cummins was employed to boom a kick into touch from a penalty, the resulting lineout was usually a mess and ended up in a turned over ball with Wests regaining possession.

The Bees now have a week off to regroup before they journey to table toppers York on February 1.