An untidy, error-strewn contest, not helped by the heavy shower that fell shortly prior to kick-off, dampening the Damson Park surface. Birmingham & Solihull’s plight this term has frequently seen them scrapping it out with opposition, as well as relying on the boot and ingenuity of Mark Woodrow, in their quest for points to avoid a second successive relegation – a battle which ended on the final day of March.
For their part Blackheath managed to keep their shape and discipline for long enough (bar a dicey moment mid-second half when they were reduced temporarily to 13-men) to see them through to what, in the end, was a comfortable tenth successive bonus point victory, and one which lifts them to third position in SSE National League One.
Indeed, the ease with which Mike Canty
scythed through the Bees’ defence for the opening try on four minutes, the full-back having taken delivery of a high-ball on his own twenty-two, hinted at an ominous afternoon for the hosts, but Woodrow quickly served notice of his ability with a 40-metre penalty strike soon after.
Blackheath, on the other hand, looked to Sam Windsor for field position as Birmingham infringed, and with Gavin O’Meara’s faultless line-out throwing, third-phase ball saw Dave Bonner crash over in the 16th minute for the outside-centre’s first try for the Club and a 14-3 lead.
Birmingham, however, retain a clutch of players with Championship experience and their defence at the line-out resisted further Blackheath attempts to add to the score, while at the other end Woodrow’s policy of kicking behind the Club line paid off on 34 minutes as full-back Simon Hunt collected a perfectly weighted kick from his fly-half to race ahead and reduce the arrears to four points.
Nevertheless, the visitors continued to be positive and as the hosts lost the second of a total of three players to the sin-bin, the Club pack drove towards goal-line and Birmingham came in at the side to concede the penalty try that gave Blackheath a 21-10 interval lead.
Staggered at the simplicity with which he mopped up a loose pass and strolled across the goal-line, Markus Burcham
, starting at inside-centre in the absence of Richard Windsor, seemingly took an age to ground the ball and give Sam Windsor his fourth straightforward conversion after the break. And ten minutes later Dave Allen
was at last driven across for his 25th try of the season, as Woodrow was temporarily removed, extending the advantage to 23-points.
But if you see yellow cards being brandished at the opposition you need to be wary of the same fate befalling you should you choose to tread a fine line in your own twenty-two, and as Allen was adjudged over the top beneath the uprights the flanker found himself deposited in the sin-bin to be joined rapidly by Neil Dewale.
A number of scrum re-sets failed to force the depleted Club pack across the goal-line but eventually Rob Connolly picked and drove his way over on 67 minutes before the Bees’ number-eight added a second as Birmingham ran the ball back from the re-start, reducing the deficit to eleven points.
Moments later though, and restored to full strength, Blackheath simply upped through the gears and took charge once again. Line-out ball again produced the platform and as the pack drove in-field, space was created for James Stephenson to race across in the left corner, and although Bees’ replacement fly-half Dan Hawkes scored from a charged-down kick at the very death, the Club’s dominance was never seriously challenged.
Next Saturday Blackheath will look to secure third-place as they host Rosslyn Park in their final SSE National League One match of the season.
The match is a 3.00 pm kick-off at Rectory Field on Saturday 28th April and will be the Club’s Ladies’ Day in aid of Breast Cancer Care (http://www.blackheathladiesday.com).
Birmingham & Solihull
Tries: Hunt, Connolly 2, Hawkes
Conv: Woodrow 2
Tries: Canty, Bonner, Penalty try, Burcham, Allen, Stephenson
Conv: Windsor 4