National League Two: Birmingham & Solihull 32 Blaydon 12
Birmingham & Solihull underlined just why they are many people’s favourites to win National League Two this term with a dramatic turnaround against a decent-looking Blaydon side at Sharmans Cross Road.
Head coach Russell Earnshaw refuted suggestions that a strong headwind had dictated matters. But there was little doubt that Bees looked a transformed side in the second half and made light of a 12-3 half-time deficit.
Such was Blaydon’s early dominance that it took Bees fully 25 minutes to get outside their own half. Twice they kicked off during that period and twice the ball failed to travel 10 metres.
Earnshaw played down the elements and said: “We were asleep and missed too many tackles early on.”
Such was the difference in the second half that Bees threatened to carve Blaydon open every ime they won possession.
Did Earnshaw bawl out his troops at half time? Not a bit of it.
He said: “That’s not my style. We just talked about doing the basics right and not doing anything flashy.”
It clearly worked as Blaydon were no match for Bees after the interval.
Blaydon had made all the early running and finally the pressure told after 20 minutes when fly half Andrew Baggott kicked a penalty into the corner.
From the following lineout move, Blaydon tight head prop Rob Kalbraier was quick to react, pouncing to power over, with Baggott missing the conversion.
Bees gradually got their act together as the half progressed.
But belated first-half pressure backfired as left wing Andrey Fenby intercepted, fed hooker Matt Hall, who in turn created an opening for flanker Scott Riddell to race more than half the length of the pitch and score unopposed for Baggott to convert.
Bees cut the deficit just before half time when fly half Mark Woodrow fired over a penalty after Blaydon were penalised for some foul play in the loose.
The second half was a different story as Bees started like a house on fire and never looked back. Within two minutes of resumption skipper Rob Connelly raced over to score.
Before Blaydon could respond, Bees added a second try as right wing Simon Hunt scythed through a fragile-looking defence and Woodrow slotted over the conversion.
That put Bees 15-12 in front.
There was no stopping Bees by now and they grew in confidence while Blaydon’s defending became increasingly stretched.
Another rousing run by openside flanker Connolly created the opening for full back Reece Spee to score Bees’ third try after being sent on his way with a sublime back-handed pass by his skipper.
Woodrow increased the advantage with a simplistic conversion before Bees completed the scoring with their best try of the game.
Blaydon were penalised for handling in the maul and, from the resulting scrummage in front of the posts, the visitors were shunted backwards with consumate ease which allowed scrum half Rod Petty to get the vital touch before Woodrow converted.
BIRMINGHAM & SOLIHULL: Spee; Hunt, Young, Mitchell, Culpin; Woodrow, Petty; Long, Phillips, Voisey, Davidson, Ogee, Connolly, Earnshaw, Jenner. Reps: Collett, Davies, Clayton, Brown, Aston.
Blaydon: Rayner; Mercer, Shaw, Dias, Fenby; Baggett, Clark; Kalbraier, Hall, Isaacson, Guthrie, Whitehead, Calder, Riddell, Smithson. Reps: Garison, Wearmouth, Harrison, Langrun, Daniel.
Referee: Luke Pearce