Kelly the hero as Wild Geese win narrows the gap in relegation scramble
By Richard Smith
33-12 victory against London Irish boosts Bees survival hopes
Young centre Dan Kelly scored two tries and set up a third, as Birmingham & Solihull were deserved victors against London Irish Wild Geese in a bottom of the table clash at Portway.
With other results going in their favour, the five-point win also narrowed the gap between the Bees in the third relegation spot and Barnes and Old Redcliffians above them to just 8 points, with six league fixtures remaining.
Playing a patient style of rugby against a brisk wind in the first half, it took the Bees a full 18 minutes to finally breach the Irish defence, Kelly bagging the first of his brace. The Wild Geese evened up the scoreline with a try for centre Sean Cunningham six minutes later, fly half Tom Brooks successful with the conversion.
The home side struck back almost immediately – Matt Dight notching up his thirteenth try of the season, in a move straight off the training paddock. With Kelly adding a third score and Jolly maintaining a 100% kicking record – no mean achievement in the conditions – the Bees had opened up a 21-7 lead at the break.
Despite playing against the wind in the second half, the Wild Geese looked the most dangerous of the two sides for the first 15 minutes of the second period. Indeed, the Bees were down to 14 men 8 minutes in, when Luke Smith was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on.
The home side absorbed the pressure without conceding though and extended their lead with a signature score from Umraan Jadwat. The rangy No.8 picked up from the base of the scrum and swatted off all attempts at bringing him down as he cantered a full 40 metres to the try line. With another Jolly conversion and the bonus point in the bag, the game was effectively done and dusted.
Pleasingly, the Bees didn’t sit back and more powerful running and a timely off-load from Kelly put Corey Venus in for a fifth try to take the score to 33-7. Less pleasing, however, was a yellow card for the Bees skipper with 10 minutes to go.
Despite chasing a losing cause, to their credit the Wild Geese never threw in the towel and they were rewarded with a consolation try in the final moment of the game, scored by hooker Ben Atkins to narrow the deficit to 33-12.
As well as the result and the vital league points secured, Pete Glackin’s men will be buoyed by scoring five decent tries, keeping a good run of home form intact and maintaining dominance in both scrum and line out throughout. Forwards Nick Bingham, Stewart Pearl, Ashley Scriven and Keenan Cooper were all worthy of mention in dispatches.
On the debit side of the ledger will be a number of Injuries picked up during their afternoon’s work, suggesting that the physio’s room may be a busy place this week.
Although not yet a mathematical certainty, the defeat leaves the Hazelwood-base club 16 points adrift from safety, with the drop along with Guernsey now looking increasingly likely.
For the Bees, although the mission is still a tough one, they are still very much in with a shout of playing rugby in National League 2 next year, although matters are still not entirely in their hands.
They have another challenging assignment this weekend (Saturday 9th March, KO 2.30pm) when they travel to Henley on Thames. The Hawks have only lost 5 games in 24 and currently sit in third place in the table. They will be keen to secure points to keep them in the hunt for the playoff spot in the league.
Bees v London Irish Wild Geese: 1. JP Nel, 2. Stewart Pearl, 3. Nick Bingham, 4. Andy Weaver, 5. Keenan Cooper, 6. Ashley Scriven, 7. Adam Clayton, 8. Umraan Jadwat (T), 9. Jack Jolly © (4c, YP), 10. Harry O’Brien, 11 Matt Dight (T), 12. Nathan Tilsley, 13. Dan Kelly (2T), 14. Luke Smith (YC), 15, Corey Venus (T).
Replacements: 16. Joe Foreman, 17. Zane Raimondi, 18. Matt Spink, 19. Ben Phillips, 20. Adam Nunney.
Referee:- Adam Wookey, ARs Wayne Spencer & Hayden Sarjeant