AFTER two winless seasons and a losing run that now stretches back 49 league games to February 29, 2020, when Morley were defeated, you would have thought that there would be mutiny in the air at Bradford & Bingley.

But remarkably optimism still pervades as head coach Carl Paterson and his young players look forward to the Papa Johns Community Cup on April 15 and to next season, when they will be back in Counties One Yorkshire.

Paterson admits that 2022-23 has been his most challenging as a head coach but, perversely, his most rewarding, and he is part of that feel-good factor for 2023-24 after relegation from Regional Two North East.

Having watched his charges lose their final game of the season 43-20 at home to derby rivals Old Brodleians, Paterson said: “Results-wise it has been my most challenging season, but it has been my most enjoyable by a long way.

“And it is not just a short-term thing – it is a long-term thing. I don’t back away from things, I am in it for the long haul and we are setting ourselves up for next season with the development of the players.

“We have No. 8 Jim Nicholas, who is 28 (as well as long-serving lock Harry Jeffrey), then we have three or four 17-18-year-olds, and we are just lacking a few players, who hopefully we might attract for next season.”

Having gone behind to a try and conversion by young Brods centre Matthew Briggs in the first minute, the Bees responded three minutes later with a superb solo effort by centre Charlie Savage, who was one of those 17-year-olds.

He picked the ball up in midfield in only his second game for the first XV and produced a 50-metre arcing run to the right before plunging over the line.

“We have scored some nice ones, but that was one of our best individual tries of the season,” said Paterson of the teenager who plays rugby all-year round, either for the Bees or rugby league club Keighley Albion.

The hosts could not then make anything of a tap-and-go deep in Brods territory by feisty scrum-half Ben Hemsley, as the visitors lost hooker Elliot Craven to an ankle injury.

Full-back Philip Town then scored the Hipperholme club’s second try before a former Bees player, centre Adam Sutcliffe, got their third.

The home side then lost flanker Sam Bryan to the sin bin for collapsing a maul, but while he was off the pitch the Bees got their second try from right winger Sam Mantle.

Then Brods prop Lee Imiolek saw yellow in stoppage time for kicking the ball out of the front of a ruck, and four minutes later No. 8 Nicholas showed his strength and determination to score a third try for the Bees.

Trailing just 17-15 after Savage had missed all three testing kicks at goal, Bradford & Bingley conceded another try six minutes into the second half.

The home side's 18-year-old left winger Ethan Wroot went over past the despairing dive of skipper Jeffrey in the muddy left-hand corner near the changing rooms.

But back came the black, red and yellows when Savage’s neat offload, after committing the defence, gave right-winger Ryan Wilson the chance to go over and make it 22-20 to the visitors.

Then came the game’s defining moment, when Bees fly-half William Marshall launched an up and under and chased it before a mid-air collision with Town when the ball came down.

Marshall landed very awkwardly, later going off feeling sick and dizzy, and Town received a yellow card from referee Jordan Wakeham.

Paterson conceded that was the right decision as both players were fairly competing for the ball, despite some Bees supporters wanting the whistler to brandish a red card to Town.

Bryan received a second yellow card in the melee that followed the 53rd-minute incident, and the Bees scored no more points while conceding the last 21.

Replacement Harry Wardman, Imiolek, who made up for earlier planting the ball beyond the dead-ball line, and flanker Robert Sykes scored tries for Brods, with Briggs and 17-year-old fly half Will Bentley adding the three subsequent conversions between them.

“I thought that today was going to be the day, even after Sam go sent off,” admitted Paterson of that elusive win.

“Confidence got low and it was not meant to be, but at least we picked up another point for four tries.

“As for the up and under, both players had their eyes on the ball and if it was Will who had caught their lad I would have expected him to go off instead.

“It will make us stronger though and now we have the cup, where we have a bye in the first round.

“I think that we need some new blood for next season, maybe a couple of forwards and a couple of backs, and we will see how we go, but they are a good close-knit group who never give up.

“The number of coaches who have come up to me afterwards and complimented me on our lads is good to hear.”