RUGBY union can be a cruel game at times.

Bradford & Bingley, who had lost all 15 matches in North One East this season prior to this clash, led Consett in a bottom-of-the-table match with just three minutes remaining.

However, the hosts then conceded a try to go behind for the first time in the contest and let in two more in injury time to leave themselves without even a losing bonus point, going down 38-23.

This defeat hurt the wounded Bees (five of their players either went off injured or simply had to carry on despite being hampered), yet after a defiant display, the spirit of this young side, whose average age is boosted by 43-year-old prop Roger Raper and whose skillset was aided by four Fijians, is intact.

Raper, who made his first-team debut 22 years ago, said: “I am so old that I made my debut before proper statistical records began, but we stuck at it in defence and there were a few things that didn’t go our way, but that is rugby isn’t it?

“Everyone put in 100 per cent and it was unfortunate that we didn’t convert when we needed to.”

During a match that was played for the most part in a gale-force wind but was gripping throughout, the Bees lost fly half Ben Hemsley (shoulder), hooker Alex Leadbetter (tendon), who came off twice, No. 8 Will Bentley (knee) and lock Joe Daley (shoulder), who also went back on, to injuries.

Meanwhile, full-back Connor Capper limped his way through most of the match but stayed on in what was a busy afternoon for Bees physio Olivia Snowden.

Raper said of the injuries: “There doesn’t seem to be anything too catastrophic but that is the story of the season with players coming in and out due to unavailability because of work, while injuries have had an impact too, and this has affected the consistency of the team.

“But some lads went back on because they had to, and that shows the commitment of the team, such as Connor putting in some really heavy tackles despite being on one leg half the time, which is no mean feat.”

As for morale, Raper said: “They are a really good set of lads. We have had a tough season but everyone is sticking together and I am told that the bus trip last week (to Durham City) was particularly phenomenal.

“We are keeping our heads up and we all know that we have got to work on things, to build on things and take what we can in terms of positives.”

While some may wish that the Bees could be relegated to Yorkshire One, and face the likes of Bradford Salem and probably Keighley in mouthwatering derbies next season, relegation is off the cards due to a restructure of the Yorkshire leagues.

But Raper said: “This level (North One East) is definitely something that we can aspire to.

“It is a good quality of rugby and there are just a few things that we need to get right which would see us to win games.

“At the start of the season, we had a close game against Morley and there are league matches where the scoreline hasn’t reflected the effort that has gone in.

“With a few tweaks here and there and a bit more strength in depth who knows?

“For example, the Fijians (Virimi Seru, Ratu Katalua, Amare Rokosusu and Christopher Vuki) have made a welcome impact.

“They are all in the army, they are good, strong runners and they are trying to fit into a team and learn our moves at the drop of a hat.

“And the try that we scored down the right wing by Seru just shows our never-say-die attitude and it is just a shame that we didn’t get more opportunities like that.”

The Bees had first use of Storm Malik, which was blowing towards Dowley Gap, and went ahead after six minutes when Hemsley dummied his way over from a Ben Hockenhull pass.

The latter converted, and five minutes later flanker Alex Hamard capitalised on a strong run by Kapalua to get their second try.

Hockenhull added penalties in the 22nd and 28th minutes to make it 18-0 but the Bees, who lost Bentley to a yellow card for a barge, conceded two tries before the interval via flanker Kieran Jervis and hooker Scott Redshaw.

An eight-point half-time lead didn’t seem enough, but stern defence and Consett knock-ons almost made it so.

Consett scrum half Rory Ryan backed himself to score a try and did so in the 53rd minute, with fly half Matthew Grimes converting, but great interplay down the right between Bees winger Ryan Wilson and Seru put the latter over six minutes later to make it 23-17.

The latter stages of the match belonged to the visitors, however, who added three tries – by flanker Ethan Soden after 77 minutes, replacement Reece Brown five minutes into added time and winger Daniel Patchcott three minutes after that, with Grimes adding two superb conversions.

Consett’s day started with corrugated steel blowing off their clubhouse roof and their coach being damaged by the wind in the club’s car park meant that the players had to travel by car instead, delaying the kick-off by 15 minutes.

However, it ended with only their second league victory of the season, with the other being a 52-36 home win over Bradford & Bingley in October.