BIRMINGHAM & Solihull Bees will face Newport in the final of the North Midlands Cup after securing a hard fought 13-12 victory over the holders Old Halesonians.
The Bees beat Old Halesonians at the third time of asking this season, albeit by the narrowest of margins to reach the final of the North Midlands Cup.
Bees kicked off the game in front of a large Portway crowd and after five minutes the home side managed to take the game to the cup holders. They were awarded a penalty and fly half Mitch McGahan was successful with his attempt which cannoned off an upright before going over.
On their second meaningful visit to opposition territory the Bees were again awarded a penalty and McGahan duly obliged to give his side a six point lead after 15 minutes of play.
The game was now pretty even with both sides attacking at every opportunity, and defending for their lives where necessary.
Unfortunately for Bees, lock Billy Castle was sin binned early in the second quarter for not rolling away. Old Hales Fly half Oliver Rayner was off target however with his attempt, with Bees maintaining their six point lead.
Just before half-time, Old Hales hooker Peter Fitzgerald joined Castle in the sin bin, but the score remained unchanged at the half way point.
Despite being a man down, Old Hales took the game to Bees at the start of the second period and forced the men in black Bees to commit an offence at a defensive scrum.
The away side kicked the resulting penalty to touch, won the line-out and drove over for their first points of the game. Fly half Rayner added the extras with a well taken conversion to give his side a one point lead at 7-6, with 47 minutes on the clock.
A key moment in the match was to occur moments later with Old Hales having a try disallowed, due to a pass in the build-up being narrowly forward. Following this, the Bees upped their game and dominated possession and territory for the next 15 minutes.
The away side was having difficulty defending Bees attacking line-outs, and Old Hales problems were compounded with the sin binning of both of their flankers, Max Macfarlane and Tom Jordan, within minutes of each other.
Bees eventually made their numerical advantage count with inside centre Jimmy Oliver going over for the home sides first try of the game. McGahan was successful with the conversion to give Bees a 13-7 lead.
With Old Hales restored to 15 players, it was Bees turn to defend valiantly a series of scrums five metres from their own line. Prop Dan Toth was sin binned and the men from Hagley soon forced their way over for their second try of the game. Rayner missed the tricky conversation, meaning that the Bees still led 13-12 with six minutes or so remaining.
Shortly before the end of the game McGahan missed with a penalty attempt, when it may have been more prudent to kick for touch and run the clock down. With the game deep in injury time Old Hales tried a last ditch drop goal which fell short, Bees cleared and the referee blew to end the tightest of games.