BIRMINGHAM & Solihull Bees Old Northamptonians back into the game and slide to another defeat in the National League 3 Midlands this time finding themselves on the wrong end of a 22-13 scoreline.
On a wet and blustery day in the rugby-mad town, the visitors dominated for much of the first half and indeed were 0-10 up after 15 minutes thanks to tries from lock Matt Spink and full back Sam Davenport – the latter probably the team’s best try of the season to date.
At that point, albeit assisted by playing downhill, the Bees pack, featuring a debut for Head of Rugby Ian Matthews playing at hooker, were using their superiority in the scrum, line out and the loose to control the game to their advantage.
However, as seen in previous games, the Bees metaphorically took the foot of the opposition’s throat, letting them back into the game and giving them a platform to carve out a win in the second half.
James Grayson slotted over a penalty on the 20 minute mark before parity was then gained on the stroke of half time, as sustained pressure on the Bees’ line was rewarded when Old N’s scrum half Lewis Barker was adjudged to have grounded the ball. Grayson added the extras.
As the Bees headed for the changing room at half time, Old N’s opted to stay out in the middle of the pitch. It was clear from the team talk that, having levelled the score and with the prospect of playing with the slope in the second half, this was a game that they thought they could and should win. And so it came to pass.
Momentum swung after the break and a combination of poor decision making, ineffective defensive kicking and handling errors all conspired to build rather than ease pressure on the visitors.
The breakthrough for the hosts came 20 minutes in to the second half when Rory Seymour finished off a move and Grayson slotted the relatively simple conversion to put Old N’s in the driving seat at 17-10 up.
This prompted a mini revival from the Bees, with a Jack Jolly penalty from a good drive giving the traveling support some hope. However, the action was soon at the other end of the pitch, with desperate defence holding Old N’s up over the Bees’ line.
It transpired that referee Woodthorpe was playing advantage for a high tackle and the resultant penalty was put into touch by Grayson. The ball was secured from the lineout and blindside flanker Tim Cardall grounded the ball over to give the ONs a 22-13 lead. To further compound their problems, Bees’ flanker Darren Forder was yellow carded in the process.
With time ebbing away, the Bees looked to keep things tight in an effort to salvage at least a losing bonus point from the game.
However with a Jack Jolly penalty attempt going wide and replacement lock Mitch Lee coughing up a ball on the home side’s try line, the score line remained at 23-10 to give Old N’s a deserved victory – only their second this season.
Speaking after the game, Bees’ Backs Coach Lee Cassell said: “It was very frustrating – we had a game plan, but the boys didn’t stick to it. We are making the opportunities but our errors are costing us dear.”
The Bees have an opportunity to put the disappointment of this defeat behind them when they entertain Peterborough Lions at Portway this Saturday (21st November, KO 2.15pm).