Stourbridge 17 v Birmingham Solihull 18
Battered, bruised yet victorious – Russell Earnshaw’s battling Bees carved out a nail biting victory at Stourton on a bitterly cold January afternoon.
Yet the Birmingham Solihull director of rugby was far from satisfied with the manner of the win especially the way the second half spun almost out of control for the visitors.
“I had some harsh words at the final whistle,” said Earnshaw, who had also punched the air when the referee blew time.
“It’s great to win away from home and put together two wins on the bounce but we’d said to ourselves at half time that we had to maintain the same tempo in the second half as in the first and it didn’t happen.
“Still, it’s good to be saying it on the back of a victory.”
It was a remarkable performance – Bees rarely threatened the Stourbridge line but instead turned in a magnificent 15 man team performance exemplified by 42 year old tight head Tau Nglau who kept battering away at Stourbridge for 80 pulsating minutes.
The difference between the two sides came down to taking their chances - fly half Mark Woodrow, who started the season playing for the host club - had a faultless day with the boot, while Stourbridge’s James Hearn had a wretched time, kicking just one conversion and missing a hatful of penalties.
Yet both sides started determined to run the ball, spurning highly convertible opportunities to go for touch instead.
Bees snapped out of it first; with their pack starting to rumble, Stourbridge were being penalised for no end of offences and on 10 minutes Woodrow put the visitors on the board.
Two minutes later and from just inside the Stourbridge half he doubled the lead and with quickly clicked it over to 9-0 before a yellow card for Stourbridge full back Matt Williams for dangerous use of the elbow cost them another three..
They started the second half in the same vein, Woodrow making it 15-0 before Stourbridge finally started to win some ball and put some moves together.
The result was a string of flowing attacks from their backs, one of which resulted in centre Tom Jarvis crossing on 45 minutes.
Five minutes later Woodrow pushed Bees out to 18 but a yellow card for centre Gregg Evans for not releasing a tackled player opened the door for the home side.
Stourbridge seized their chance, winger Nat Bressington touching down in the corner before Number 8 Adrian Hall finished off a flowing attack with a dramatic dive under the posts, Hearn converting to narrow the gap to 17-18 with 14 minutes to go.
The return of Evans steadied the ship as Bees, struggling with injuries, dug deep, to grind out the match.
Delighted skipper Jack Priestley, in his first game back from injury, paid tribute to the team effort: “What a game – at the end I thought we were all dying out there. It was scramble defence and no mistake, but a great win.
“The scrum and line out were really good and our props were fantastic - Nglau was magnificent.
“As for Woody, coming here and kicking those goals against his old club, that was real pressure.
“But he’s also a leader, he’s there directing everything and making sure everyone knows what to do – it meant it was a real team effort by everyone.”
Bees now roll on to next week when they aim to win three on the trot for the first time this season against Sedgley Park at Damson Park, kick off 3pm.