Birmingham & Solihull came close to adding another notable scalp in their National League 2 North campaign when they narrowly lost 22-17 to league leaders Macclesfield at Portway.
Three second half tries eventually saw the visitors seal the win but Bees took a well deserved losing bonus point and denied Macclesfield a try bonus point in their quest for automatic promotion.
The Cheshire side would have been wary of the Bees, having lost to Eugene Martin’s men up at Priory Park in November. That wariness was very much in evidence in a rather one-dimensional first half performance from the visitors.
With one of the largest packs in the division, the Blues looked to deploy their power game, with phase after phase of forward-orientated attacks. However, the Bees’ defensive effort and cohesion was immense, absorbing everything that Macclesfield could throw at them.
The visitors started to make errors and by the 25th minute Bees’ influential fly half Adam Canning had already slotted three penalties to give the home side a 9-0 lead. Canning’s opposite number, Blues’ skipper Tom Eaton, narrowed the deficit with a penalty after 33 minutes, but the Bees were to take a nine-point lead into half time thanks to a Canning drop goal, following a series of well executed rolling mauls. Although having the benefit of the wind behind their backs in the first half, Bees had used their possession and territory in a much more intelligent way than their high-flying visitors.
Bees started strongly again in the second half but Blues were the first to cross the whitewash seven minutes into the half when giant lock forward Dean Williams burrowed over after some good work by centre Tom Davenport. Eaton added the extras to make it 12-10. But it took the home side just three minutes to respond, with Chris Goddard finishing off a trademark catch and drive from an attacking line out. Canning edged the conversion wide but the Bees were now 17-10 to the good.
It was then the visitors’ turn to put sustained pressure on the Bees line. With Williams at the front of the line out, Macclesfield used the catch and drive to equal effect on the 17 minute mark, with a try for prop Tom Mantell. The conversion by Eaton drew the scores level.
Again the Bees came back, with Canning unlucky not to score after a well worked move with winger Dai Evans.
But it was Macclesfield who were to bag the next try, almost of carbon copy of the previous one – this time scored by replacement lock Chris Jones. With 15 minutes to go and Bees’ lock Matt Spink yellow carded, it seemed that the Blues were finally in the ascendency.
However, it was the Bees who looked the more dangerous side in the last period of the game, with Johns and Fensome both making incisive breaks and Petty, Canning and the tireless Radburn continuing to probe the Macclesfield defensive line. But the visitors held on for an unconvincing 22-17 victory and the Bees looked rightly disappointed that brain hadn’t managed to outwit brawn.
On Saturday, March 15, Birmingham & Solihull travel a couple of junctions up the M42 to face Bromsgrove, kick off 3pm.