BIRMINGHAM Bulldogs ended their season on a triumphant note as they captured the Midlands Division One trophy thanks to an intense 22-10 victory at Derby City in the Midlands Premier League Division One play-off final on Saturday.
Derby had brought a big pack and Brum had to put in a determined- near manic at times – defensive display. But in attack, the Solihull-based side were just that bit sharper as the 4-1 try-count suggests.
An early blow for Bulldogs came with a facial injury to prop Mark Bunn. Nonetheless, Brum had the first chance to score but knocked on. Then the first of a series of great tackles from Ventrella spiked a threatening Derby attack.
Soon afterwards, Brum took the lead as second row Greg Pearson took Gregory’s assist to storm down the right flank for a score well converted by centre Danny Bancroft.
Ten minutes on the scores were level as stand-off Joe Frobisher crossed for a try that centre Jack Pearce converted.
Spurred on by this, Derby continued to press and opened a four-point lead courtesy of two penalty goals from Pearce.
As half time approached, Bulldogs went on the attack. A high cross-kick from Pearson was knocked on by a Derby defender, the referee played advantage, and right wing James Kenney was on hand to grab the ball and touch down to level the scores at the break at 10-10.
The start of the second half saw an outbreak of fisticuffs that resulted in a yellow card for a player from both sides.
Things soon settled down and Brum stand-off Matt Dudley opened up the Derby defence with a searing break from within his own half and it was Dudley who came back into the attack immediately afterwards, breaking the Derby line for a try to which Bancroft added the extras to make the score 16-10 in Bulldogs’ favour.
Derby then mounted a series of attacks spearheaded by their big props and it seemed the Brum line must surely crack, but some great defence, in which the tackling of Bernard and Harris was particularly noteworthy, kept the line intact.
With about ten minutes left, Brum’s Bancroft put in a long kick downfield and centre Curtis Harris gave chase and succeeded in beating the defender to the ball to score a try between the sticks. Bancroft’s conversion gave Birmingham a 12-point lead at 22-10.
With a few minutes remaining, Derby did all they could to rescue the situation, but Bulldogs held out for victory.
Skipper Beattie was Brum’s man of the match but there were numerous others in contention from a great team performance.
Bulldogs’ season is now ended, but they will look to strengthen their squad for next year.