Pertemps Bees 17 Rotherham Titans 31

The first 80 curious minutes of the National One campaign both confirmed Pertemps Bees' worst fears and justified some of their pre-season optimism.

The two processes were divided to the minute by the half-time whistle as Bees opened by playing good street-fighting rugby, which was rewarded by parity with last year's runners-up.

That sent them into the dressing room in positive mood and daring to believe the pre-match predictions of a mauling at the hands of the division's best pack would prove false.

Unfortunately, when they returned to build on the 17-17 platform they had spent the first half constructing, they were unable to do so, as Rotherham dictated territory and possession through the excellence of their fly half, Michael Whitehead.

Only in the last two minutes did the hosts trouble their guests and, by that time, the victory was out of their grasp and the best that could hope for was the loss bonus which, arguably, they deserved.

Two opportunistic tries in the opening quarter-of-an-hour gave Ben Harvey's men a 17-7 lead and although they can't claim to have created the scoring situations, Bees should be applauded for the alacrity with which they accepted their gifts.

With the game in its infancy, two of the visitors' threequarters inexplicably crossed 30 metres from their own posts to present the superb Jon Higgins with his first penalty.

Then, even though they had in the meantime conceded the first of Stephen Grissing's three tries, Jamie Lennard released a ridiculous pass to Andy Daish and the Bees blindside scooted home from 40 metres. It was a shocking error by the Titans full back and some clue, perhaps, as to why Worcester did not stop him from moving north.

If that was self-destruction, what followed next was attempted suicide. Rotherham tried to pick and go their way clear of their own line, only for Phil Boulton to become isolated and have his pocket picked by openside Jack Preece.

The 18-year-old marked his first game in professional rugby with the cheekiest of tries as he dived over from close range.

The flanker's debut was an intriguing one and entirely consistent with the collective effort in that it demonstrated genuine promise with many large caveats.

The youngster, who has just one year's experience of senior rugby, went about his work with enthusiasm and showed bottle aplenty, but his teenage frame was easily stripped of the ball on occasions.

With Higgins converting both tries, Bees had an enviable ten-point cushion, although Harvey believes the fact that they didn't convert it into something tangible was down to a lack of belief.

"It would have been a monumental effort to have won against Rotherham, even given all their changes," he said. "If we had played them next week, I think we would have done that because, at 17-7 up, it eventually dawned on us we could win.

"But the try just before half-time hurt us; maybe if we'd come out in the second half still leading, it would have been different."

They might have done that, too, had Paul Knight been able to take Daish's pass in stride and cover the remaining few steps to the unguarded line with the last play of the period.

However, he couldn't and the momentum remained with Phil Werahiko's outfit following their late charge.

The Yorkshiremen found huge tracts of open space between B&S centres and produced three of their four touchdowns through this rich seam.

With newcomers Ashley Maggs and Mike Mangeolles manning the midfield and playing together for the first time, Bees' defence resembled an industrial fishing net - slack and full of holes.

Grissing grabbed his first as Tom Allen burst through a large gap to release his Irish teammate in the seventh minute.

His second followed Whitehead's penalty and came on the stroke of half-time. Bees were turned over as they ran from inside their own 22 and although Neil Chivers' pass did not go to hand, Grissing collected it beautifully.

The former Leinster man benefited from James Aston's slip and Mangeolles' feeble tackle to bash through Reece Spee. The tenpoint advantage was gone.

Seven minutes after the restart, Preece lost possession in his own half and after a couple of shunts up the middle, Lennard seared into the line to release Grissing in the corner.

Then, with ten to go, Allen cut through the same outside-centre channel and allowed Lennard to make up for his earlier aberration. "We were a bit naive in defence and got sucked in with very basic things," Harvey admitted. "John Feeley and Mike Whitehead do the basics very well and that's how they hurt us.

"Our backs have not played much rugby, there are a lot of young guys learning the game out there. You can only get the necessary knowledge by playing and it's such a steep learning curve in National One."

Indeed, it is; if it's not to prove too steep, next week's derby with Moseley must provide more optimism than fears.

BEES: Spee; Aston (Hook, 40), Maggs, Mangeolles, Mitchell; Higgins, Knight (Griffiths, 58); Long (Wyn Davies, 68), Pearl (Miles, 48), Bucknall, Davidson (Gabey, 48), McComb (Campton 68), Daish (Larsen, 63), Preece, Earn-shaw.

TITANS: Lennard; Feeley, Allen, Blackwood, Grissing; Whitehead (Nolan, 72), Chivers (Hallam, 72); Corsar (Corrigan, 63), Conroy (O'Donnell 63), Boulton, McGowan, Smith (Waterhouse, 73), Connolly, Cochrane (Dunlop, 63), McComish. Replacement: Bingle.

Referee: Mr A Hartwell (RFU).