The champagne was flowing at Sharmans Cross Road last weekend as Birmingham & Solihull Bees wrapped up the National Two title with a game to spare.
Tomorrow they round off the season against their closest rivals Cambridge before waiting for confirmation that they have earned promotion to the all new full-time Championship.
The 31-7 victory over Redruth may speak of a walkover but two late scores put a gloss on a pulsating game that was dominated by brutal clashes, bone jarring tackles and thrilling runs by both sides.
“It wasn’t our greatest performance but it was the result we wanted and I’m delighted for the lads,” said player coach Russell Earnshaw.
“We were on edge particularly in the first half - it’s been such a long hard season –I looked through the programme and we’ve done it with just 23 guys and they deserve all the plaudits.”
The turning point came after 50 minutes with Bees 14-7 ahead and Redruth encamped on the home side’s 22.
Winning an easily kickable penalty the visitors instead opted to use their big pack and went for a scrum. From the resulting forward drive they knocked on, the ball was pounced on by the Bees who fed it back behind their own goal line, along the three quarters to Reece Spee who sidestepped his tackler, accelerated to 20 yards and passed outside to top league try scorer Simon Hunt.
The winger put on another 25 yards before punting the ball down field, outpacing the defence to score in the corner.
The Cornishmen, who’d gone from possibly narrowing the gap to 14-10 to going 19-7 behind, never recovered, although they battled on until exhaustion took its toll against the fitter Sharmans Cross Road outfit in the last ten minutes.
Bees had got off to the best possible start when, right from the kick off, Redruth failed to properly gather the ball.
It was picked up by the outstanding Rob Connolly, the flanker smashing his way through the defence to set up a ruck. The ball was fed down the line to full back Spee to score in the corner, fly half Mark Woodrow adding the conversion.
But for all their dominance of the first quarter, a nervy Bees failed to convert pressure into points and in one of their few sorties into the home side’s half, Redruth used their pack to bundle lock Damien Cook over for the try on 28 minutes, fly half Brett Rule adding the conversion.
Ten minutes later Bees were back in front, this time flanker Chris Brightwell doing the damage before centre Rod Petty crossed to score. Woodrow again adding the extras.
Then came Hunt’s crucial score and with Redruth visibly tiring Bees continued to spread the ball wide to bring the big winger into the game more.
The dam burst on 70 minutes, Connolly again doing the damage before the ball found its way to Spee who sidestepped two to score, Woodrow adding the conversion.
Brightwell then had the final say after Connolly latched onto a wild pass to feed his back row partner for the try.
Delighted backs coach Eugene Martin, said: “A lot of people have been saying what a great bunch of players we have but until the final whistle here they had to work so hard to prove it and now they’ve done it.”
And speaking of the crucial Hunt try: “He is some player – what was it – 101 metres? – but we’ve been doing that all season, hit and run, hit and run, and he’s so confident - you know I wouldn’t be surprised if he made the England Sevens team.”