Birmingham & Solihull start the second half of their season with a local derby at Stourbridge knowing they have to do better than they did in the first.
In some respects Bees have done outstandingly well in their opening 13 games, they have probably played the best rugby of anyone in National Two and easily won when they last clashed with Stour in September.
But there have also been three unexpected defeats that have undermined their pursuit of the single promotion spot and leave them going to Stourton Park this weekend without any wriggle room.
A match that was always going to be difficult because of the proximity of the clubs and the number of players who have appeared for both teams, has been infused with significance for other – more pressing, reasons.
Bees need the points at the top, Stour need them to make sure they don’t get dragged too close to the bottom.
“It goes without saying we’ll have to do better in the second half of the season,” says head coach Russell Earnshaw. “The likelihood is we are going to have to win practically every game left. If we do that it’ll be a very good job done because there are some tough ones and anything can happen.”
Anything, such as the unexpected home defeat to Tynedale in their last league outing, has already happened and another slip against Neil Mitchell’s men cannot be countenanced.
Bees went some way to restoring momentum in last Saturday’s EDF Energy National Trophy win over league leaders Redruth and a repeat of the 31-14 victory achieved against Stour at Sharmans Cross Road would do more than nicely.
And what might have been dismissed by some as a meaningless cup game by some, has given Earnshaw considerable food for thought in terms of selection.
This season’s captain Rob Connolly has lost his place to Chris Brightwell, who impressed last Saturday, and hands over the skipper’s role to Jim Jenner and accepts a place on the bench.
But perhaps more surprisingly veteran prop Matt Long has been left out of the match squad altogether as Ricky Davies gets a rare start.
“The guys who came in last week did really well but I also want our grafters out there early on because it’s going to be a war of attrition.
“We can use Rob and Leo Halavatau for an impact as the game opens up,” he added.