A LATE penalty for Tonbridge Juddians was enough to secure a 22-19 win against Birmingham & Solihull Bees who recovered from a poor start to give their hosts a real scare in the second half.
Two tries down with just five minutes on the clock, a five-point deduction carried forward from 2017/18 and the prospect of a 165-mile homeward coach journey, life in National League Two South was probably looking fairly unappealing for Pete Glackin’s side at that point.
However, the Bees regrouped and proceeded to show the sort of character and resilience that won them the title in the league below last season and, at least on this showing, should hold them in good stead for the realities of English rugby at level four.
Both opening TJ tries came from well executed backline moves, centre Rob White the first to cross the whitewash with less than a minute played, shortly followed by a score from full back Toby May after five minutes, with Will Robinson adding the extras.
With the Bees holding their own against a big Tonbridge pack, the visitors were finally rewarded for their industry on the half an hour mark in the form of an impressive try from age grade product Dan Kelly.
With Jack Jolly adding the extras, the Bees were back in the game at 12-7.
The Bees were guilty of a number of unforced errors throughout the game and it was a mistake whilst attacking in the midfield which gifted their hosts a try on the stroke of half time, with winger Finlay Coxon-Smith on hand to capitalise.
A second Robinson conversation gave TJs a somewhat flattering 19-7 lead at half time.
Whilst Tonbridge opted to enjoy the glorious sunshine during the break, the Bees headed inside to the changing rooms for a full and frank assessment of their first half performance.
The latter approach seemed to work better, as it was the visitors who were to look the stronger side in the second half, to the increasing anxiety of the home support.
A trademark catch and drive from an attacking line out saw flanker Marcus Brown open his account for the new season after 17 minutes.
Seventeen minutes later the Bees had pulled level courtesy of some fine running by another player to have come through the club’s junior ranks, winger Matt Dight.
Jolly bagged the extras.
Momentum had seemingly swung in favour of the Midlanders but Tonbridge were awarded a somewhat fortuitous penalty inside the Bees’ half with four minutes remaining.
Robinson kept his nerve to regain the lead which would remain until full-time.
Bees play host to Bristol-based Old Redcliffians on Saturday.