CHAMPIONS Birmingham & Solihull Bees suffered just their second Midlands Premier defeat of the campaign at the hands of Sandbach on Saturday.
In a lacklustre showing in the first half, the Bees certainly didn’t look like a side that has dominated the league all season, going into the interval 7-20 down.
A strong first 20 minutes in the second period saw the home side finally get out of the low gears and fashion a 26-23 lead.
However, it was the Cheshire side that was to finish the stronger to deservedly win 26-33 and do the double on the Bees – a notable feat, in the context of the season.
A lengthening injury list saw the Bees make two late changes to the starting fifteen, with Harry Smith coming in for Matt Probert in the front row and Keenan Cooper for Matt Spink in the engine room.
It seemed the Bees had taken all that in their stride when winger Matt Dight crossed the try line in the first minute.
Well converted by his skipper Jack Jolly, the home side had a useful lead in the spring sunshine at Portway.
However, with Sandbach dominating the scrum and winning repeated penalties as a result, the rest of the half went much the way of the visitors.
No.8 Jack Seddon crashed over from a 5m scrum after 13 minutes to open Sandbach’s account, with Ben Elliott slotting the extras in what was to be first of a 23-personal point haul.
His penalty on the 26-minute mark was followed ten minutes later by a self-converted try, after he found some additional space in the midfield created by a yellow card for Bees’ centre Nathan Tilsley.
Firm words at the break seemingly did the trick, as the Bees staged a mini recovery worthy of their league winners status.
Flanker Marcus Brown bagged the first of a brace of tries two minutes in from the restart, Harry O’Brien taking over the kicking duties from the injured Jolly successfully putting the conversion over.
Winger Steve Johns was next over the try line after 11 minutes before Brown got his second and the Bees’ fourth to secure the bonus point and restore a lead after 20 minutes.
Yet Sandbach showed they are a team with no shortage of backbone and they clawed themselves back into a lead courtesy of another Elliott penalty and a try burgled by scrum half Cameron Crampton, after a Bees’ handling error in the backline.
A further Elliott try took the score to 26-33 and, despite their best endeavours, the Bees couldn’t breach the visitors’ defence to salvage a last gasp draw.
With two games still to play, Pete Glackin and Stewart Pearl will need to keep an increasingly stretched squad on point if the season is to go out with a bang rather than a wimper, now that the main season objective has been achieved.
The Bees travel to Scunthorpe on Saturday.