Patched-up West Hartlepool put up a brave fight at fellow strugglers Bradford and Bingley only to come away from Wagon Lane with nothing to show for their efforts.
With 10 minutes left and the wind behind them, West were trailing by just one point and looking the most likely to win the game.
Unfortunately, a missed pass in their own 22 allowed the Bees to use their most powerful weapon – the scrum – to force the winning try condemning the visitors to staying in the bottom three for the next fortnight, at least.
Without a game next week, the West coaches will be looking to put in some hard work on the training ground and hope some of the missing players can return to face Bridlington on October 21.
Backs coach Stu Waites, forced to name himself on the bench after the late withdrawal of playmaker Gavin Painter and winger CeeJay Beales, said there were plus points from the defeat.
“The spirit was tremendous among a set of lads who had never played together as a team before, “ he said. “It’s a game we could have won, and when we do get over our injury problems there could be some competition for places which will only benefit results.”
Such was West’s shortage of players that they had entice former skipper Dan Boatman out of retirement. He packed down in yet another new back row combination alongside Jordan Baggs and Jay Corbett who were also making their first starts of the season.
All three did exceptionally well to keep the ball in a scrum which went backwards throughout the game.
By contrast, the West line-out was dominant, which led to a competitive contest.
West also had the benefit of Liam Checksfield starting for the first time after his move to University and Newcastle Falcons.
Last season’s top try scorer hadn’t played a competitive game for a month. He made the first break of the game and was close to going over himself until a last-ditch tackle forced him to pass out wide to Adam Peacock who was bundled into touch.
West kept up the pressure with Corbett almost going over, and when the Bees infringed stand-in fly half Matt Siddle gave the visitors a three-point lead.
Playing into the wind, West continued to give as good as they got but fell behind on 25 minutes when Checksfield, playing at full back, looked to have a kick down the right wing covered.
Unfortunately, he lost control of the ball as he slid in to collect allowing right winger James Morton an easy score, which he failed to convert.
At 5-3 down West looked like they might keep the home side out until the break only for another scrum to break down on their line with referee awarding a penalty try.
Bradford and Bingley looked likely to add to their tally just before the break with another scrum which also resulted in a penalty. West skipper Ryan Painter was sin-binned for his reaction to the ref’s decision with Jordan Baggs going off to allow Zac Southern to come on to reinforce the backs.
Against a seven man pack the Bees opted for a scrum, and there was massive relief in the West ranks when they were penalised for pushing too early.
At 12-3 down at the break, and with the wind behind them, West were very much in the game. However, their hopes were dealt a blow when No 8 Tom Cummins powered over just two minutes into the second half with fly half Dan Jeffrey missing what should have been a routine conversion.
West’s response was to come back with a try of their own. Matt Siddle, playing at scrum half while Painter was in the bin, neatly chipped over the defence from 20 metres out and collected to go over with Southern converting.
The visitors kept the pressure up taking the score to 17-16 with two excellent long-range penalties from Southern – both sailing through the middle of the posts.
There was a definite unease among the home players with West switching Checksfield onto the left wing and looking to get him away at every opportunity.
Sadly, they did it once too often - opting to pass the ball out instead of kicking for territory in their own 22.
The pass went forward with West managing to stop the resulting scrum from going over.
But they couldn’t stop former rugby league player Dennis Tuffour from evading three tackles as he made it over the line when the ball was spun – the try giving his side their eight point winning margin and a try bonus point.
Bradford and Bingley: Adam Sutcliffe, James Morton, Dennis Tuffour, Inoke Finau, Hafiz Karim, Dan Jeffrey, Ben Greaves, Michael Crotch, Sam White, Ryan Wederell, Harry Jeffrey, Troy Frisch, Will Broadbent, Louis Fraser, Tom Cummins.
Reps (all used): Max Mountain, Roger Raper, Ryan Wilson.
Tries: Morton, Cummins, Tufour, Pen. Try.
Conversions: Morton (1), Jeffrey (1)
West: Liam Checksfield, Ben Armstrong, Will Hilditch, Peter Youll, Adam Peacock, Matt Siddle, Ryan Painter (capt), Alex Key, Jordan Foulds, Craig Hadwen, John Bunter, Jake Linighan, Jay Corbett, Jordan Baggs, Dan Boatman.
Reps (used) : Adam Brown, Zac Southern. Not used: Stu Waites.
Pen: Siddle, Southern (2)
Yellow: Painter (38), Youll (77)