2009/10 RFU Championship
The 2009/10 Championship season brought about tough challenges on and off the Rugby field. Ground planning refusal, liquidation, two separate points deductions, the loss of 20 players combined to make it a particularly dark period for the Club.
The regular season proved to be a write off after the refusal of planning and subsequent liquidation of the club. Several heavy defeats were sprinkled with some notable performances including the 31-31 draw down at Pirates and the 40-36 defeat to Bristol. During this period, some 20 of the original 34 man squad left the club for pastures new. Mark Woodrow (Viadana), Ben Phillips (Gloucester), Dan Seal (Bedford), Ricky Davies (Dax), Shaun Pammenter (Pirates) and Reece Spee (Moseley) were notable departures to Championship rivals and beyond. Pressed into action were several new players such as Ben Patston (Rugby Lions), Mauro Sperandio (Sheffield) and Tom Foden (Chester).
In addition to these additions, Earnshaw himself was forced to play with a repeatedly dislocating shoulder and 43 year-old Backs Coach Eugene Martin and rugby novice and conditioning coach Chris Kemp also featured.
The biggest surprise was the successful overnight conversion of Leo Halavatau from back row to tight had prop. With a more stable platform, the likes of right wing Simon Hunt and full back Tom Foden could wreak havoc on opposition backlines.
Indeed, in the play offs, the Bees scored over 20 tries in 6 games to finish above Midland neighbours Coventry and book their place in the Championship for the 2010/11 season.
2010/11 RFU Championship
A new ground move to share with Solihull Moors Football Club was announced by the new management team in June 2010, but the Bees could not repeat the heroics of The Great Escape and were relegated to National League 1 at the end of the 2010/11 season, finishing bottom of the pile with just for wins in the regular season and crashing out in the play offs.
2011/12 National League 1
2011/12 was another difficult year for the Bees, having to rebuild a squad from scratch following relegation from the Championship. Despite picking up 10 wins out of 30 games and finishing in fourteenth place they were relegated to the fourth tier of English rugby along with Stourbridge and Barking.
2012/13 National League 2 North
Following back to back relegations in both the 2010/11 (Championship) and 2011/12 (National League 1) seasons, Birmingham & Solihull managed to be more than competitive in National League 2 North in the 2012/13 season, with their eventual 12th place position probably not a true reflection of the considerable progress made on the pitch during the season.
With Russell Earnshaw moving to a full time role with England Sevens, Eugene Martin stepped up to the role of Director of Rugby, with Henno Venter combining a playing role with that of assistant coach. Just five players remained from the squad from the previous season - Matt Long, Rob Connolly, Liam Dunne, Jon Ford and Jack Jolly. Martin’s strategy was therefore to build a squad around local players and particularly those who had “come through the ranks”.
His first move was to persuade and appoint Will Radburn as Captain at the age of 20. Radburn was a product of Bees Mini & Junior Section but had spent the previous two seasons full time in the Worcester Academy. He had played with the Bees in the previous season on loan, but had suffered a string of injuries.
Despite early promise – particularly a fine 45-3 away win at Leicester Lions – the Bees found themselves with just one win out of the first six games, albeit against form teams such as Stourbridge, Darlington, Preston, Sheffield and Hull Ionians. However by Christmas, three successive home wins against Westoe, Hull and Huddersfield and a home draw against Bromsgrove began to banish fears of a third consecutive relegation.
Post Christmas, good wins against Sheffield Tigers (H), Westoe (A), Hull (H), Dudley K (H) and Huddersfield (A) showed that Martin’s young team with a sprinkling of experience was beginning to gel as an effective unit, with the pack in particular putting in increasingly robust performances.
Successive last minute defeats against Preston (H), Bromsgrove (A) and Luctonians (H) by 3,2 and 1 points respectively meant that a mid table position was now out of reach, but good performances in the last three games of the season at Caldy (narrowly won), at home to Otley (narrowly lost) and Stourbridge (lost, but competitive in first half) gave much room for optimism as the Club starts planning for next season in the same division.
Youth was certainly a theme in the 2012/13 season, with the average age of the forwards under 24. The average age of the front row that started in the home game against Luctonians on 6th April was just 22, with an 18 year old prop on the bench. That 18 year old – Jonah Boyce, along with utility back and fellow Colt Chris Fensome were both selected for the England Colleges Squad for 2013.
Full back Oscar Heath was leading try scorer for the Bees, with prop Michael Hill winning supporters’ player of the year award.
Off the pitch, the Club consolidated all its operations at Portway, the original home of Birmingham Rugby Football Club and continued to develop its thriving Mini & Juniors and Colts teams.
2013/14 National League 2 North
The 2013/2014 season was one of significant progress both on and off the pitch for Birmingham & Solihull. The steadily maturing first team, led by captain Will Radburn, finished sixth in National Two North, whilst the club’s Under-17s enjoyed success on both the league and cup front.
With a performance team led by Director of Rugby Eugene Martin, assisted by Head coach Henno Venter and backs coach Rod Petty – the latter making a welcome return to the club, the first team squad was largely based on the one that had served during the 2012/13 campaign.
Over the 30 match season, the Bees won 17 games and lost 13, with 10 of the wins at Portway, with total aggregate points of 741 for, 599 against. Fly-half Adam Canning, in his first season with the club, notched up a personal tally of 169 points - 154 of them from the boot. Without an injury that kept him out for several games, that total would have been higher.
The Bees were, at times, frustratingly inconsistent – for instance an excellent away win at eventual champions Macclesfield was followed the following week by a heavy defeat up at Caldy. Apart from the Macclesfield game, other high points included a very narrow defeat at DMP, gritty away wins at Leicester Lions and Otley and pleasing home wins against Otley, Preston, Luctonians, Caldy and in, the last game of the season, Chester – avenging the opening day defeat up in Cheshire.
Despite not being able to put together a winning run of more than two games all season, there were far more highs than lows and, given the recent history of the club, finishing in a high mid table position in rugby’s fourth tier represented real progress from most fans point of view, especially with a number of home-grown players making the step up to the first team in 2013-14.
The forwards proved to be match for most packs in the league and Chris Goddard – next season’s captain on the pitch and both the players’ and supporters’ player of the season was outstanding. Others mentions in dispatches go to flanker s Ashley Scriven (most improved player) and Michael Stephens, lock Matt Spink, No.8 Steve Leach, veteran prop Matt Long, Will Radburn - who earned an England counties call up in the process, evergreen prop Peter Koziot and exciting young front row prospect, Jonah Boyce.
The backline was less settled due to injuries and other factors, although Rod Petty brought much needed experience and an ability to play at both 9 or 10. Steve Johns showed real quality in the centre, creating space for full back Oscar Heath and the ever dynamic Rob Connolly. Winger Dai Evans, on loan from Moseley, caused problems for a number of defences across the north of England.
Away from the first team, the club continued to make real strides in its junior sides. The Under 17 squad finished level on points at the top of the North Midlands league, reached the last 16 of the national knockout tournament and beat local rivals Moseley to lift the North Midlands Cup. They played 23 matches and won 20 and scored 618 points. Next season they will form the nucleus of a development squad.
That move is part of the Birmingham & Solihull’s drive to recreate a “one club” ethos that was somewhat lost in the Championship years. The senior side has really reconnected with a thriving mini and junior set-up, which is already showing signs of becoming the lifeblood of the first team.
2014/15 National League 2 North
The momentum of the 2013/14 wasn’t continued into the 2014/15 season however, with the Bees sleepwalking into relegation at the end of the campaign despite beating Otley in the last game of the season.
2015/16, 2016/17 National League 3 Midlands, 2017/18 Midlands Premier
The 2017/18 season will be the third season that the Bees have featured in Tier 5 and the second season that Pete Glackin has been in charge as Head of Rugby.
The Club will be looking to push on from their fifth place position achieved last season, where – after an undefeated run of 9 games – their push for promotion rather fizzled out in the spring.
They will also be looking to regain the North Midlands Cup – won at the end of the 2015/16 season – with their defence brought unceremoniously to an end in the semi-final against Bournville at Portway in March 2017.