A performance full of character and pride saw Birmingham & Solihull Bees end Derby’s 100 per cent winning start to the National League 3 Midlands season thanks to a 14-20 away victory on Saturday.
Three tries and five points from the boot of fly half Max Rodman were sufficient to outgun a Derby side that – prior to this fixture – had topped the table.
With Derby a penalty and an unconverted try to the good after ten minutes and Bees’ skipper Danny Wright sin-binned for an ill-advised comment to referee Dave Huson, home supporters probably felt that their team’s unbeaten run wasn’t likely to be threatened.
However this is a Bees side which is increasingly strong both mentality and physically and, having soaked up everything Derby could throw at them without conceding further whilst down to 14 men, the West Midlander’s progressively began to get themselves back in the game.
Despite dropping short on a long-range penalty attempt, the visitors opened their account after 26 minutes with a try courtesy of a textbook rolling maul from a 22m line out.
Although missing out on the conversion, the Bees got their noses in front ten minutes later with centre Isaac McNulty crashing over the line, after an electric break by scrum half Charlie Munford had cut through the Derby defence.
Rodman made no mistake with the conversion to give the Bees an 8-12 advantage, with Derby now down to 14 men with Wigglesworth shown yellow as the try was awarded.
With Bees’ hooker Louis Addleton soon to join him in the sin bin for illegally taking a player out in the air, the Bees were probably content to take their four-point advantage into the break.
The second period saw no lull in intensity from either side, although both teams failed to take advantage of speculative penalty attempts before a Wigglesworth three-pointer and a drop goal from fly half Bingham got their side back into a 14-12 lead with 11 minutes remaining.
Yet the Bees showed their character once more – helped in no small part by being able to bring on the experienced heads of Chris Goddard, Mitch McGahan and Kurtis Payne from the bench. Rodman finally got a penalty in his range to get his side back ahead and with Derby’s influential No.8 Adam Glover yellow carded, the Bees sensed an opportunity to put the game out of reach.
Cue the second driving maul try of the afternoon to seal an impressive win for the Bees. With Rodman’s final kick going wide, Derby had the consolation of a losing bonus point – which was just reward for their part in an enthralling game played out by two sides who are likely to be “in the mix” come the end of the season.
Now in fifth place in the table the Bees have this weekend off before they entertain Lichfield at Portway on October 22 (KO 3pm).