Clifton snatch last gasp draw but Bees secure 3 league points
By Richard Smith
Spoils shared as entertaining contest ends in 28-28 draw
Birmingham & Solihull were denied a full five-point haul by Clifton fly half Luke Cozens, who scrambled over for a last gasp try and held his nerve with the conversion to secure a 28-28 draw for his side at Portway.
The result was probably a fair reflection of an even handed and even-tempered game, played out in unseasonably warm weather in front of an appreciative crowd, although the home side may later rue taking three rather than five points from this rescheduled fixture.
It was a game of symmetry all round – four tries a piece, both kickers successful with all conversation attempts, no penalty shots at goal, 14 -14 at half time and 28 all at the full-time whistle.
An early try by Cozens gave the Bristol side a 0-7 lead after just 5 minutes, but that proved to be the shot of adrenalin required to galvanise the Bees. Corey Venus gave a glimpse of his searing pace after a deft off load from lock Andy Weaver gave the full back the opportunity to wend his way over the try line. Jolly’s first of four conversations restored parity on the 18-minute mark.
Adam Clayton – pressed into early action with an injury to Ed Krawiecki – then used his power and pace to put his side in front after 28 minutes with a well taken try.
It was the visitors’ turn to go on the offensive and they were rewarded with a try for No.8 Niall Gibbons with 36 minutes on the clock, after a concerted assault on the Bees’ whitewash. This was shortly followed by a lengthy delay just moments from the break, when Clifton’s Jack Williams was stretchered off for, what fortunately transpired not to be, a potentially serious injury.
When the excellent medical team at Portway had finished doing its work, both sides were glad to get back to the changing rooms with the score level at the break.
Clifton began the second half much as they ended the first, giving their hosts’ defence a thorough physical examination. The Bees held firm, but lost replacement flanker Zane Raimondi to the sin bin in the process. The Bristolians took advantage of the numerical imbalance, with a second try for No.8 Gibbons.
Pete Galckin’s squad is more battled hardened than they were pre-Christmas, and this was reflected in the collective response to going 14-21 down. Young centre Dan Kelly was in the right place at the right time to score in the left-hand corner on the 56-minute mark, an excellent kick by Jolly drawing the sides level again.
The pendulum swung further in the home side’s favour with Matt Dight adding to his growing try tally this season, with an electric score to secure the bonus point and put his side into a 28-21 lead.
Clifton are a dogged side and they continued to put pressure on the Bees as the game entered the final quarter. With Adam Clayton yellow carded with four minutes to go, they sensed their opportunity with a series of attacking scrums. Frustratingly for players and spectators alike, it was Cozens and Clifton who were to have the final word at the death, to secure the draw and share the spoils.
The three points notched up by the Bees lifted them up to third from bottom spot in the league table and cut the gap between them, and fourth from bottom Barnes, to 12 points.
This weekend (Saturday 2nd March, KO 2.30pm) sees the Bees take on second from bottom London Irish Wild Geese in a game vital to both side’s National League 2 survival prospects. The Bees will hope that their good run of form at home continues.
Bees v Clifton: 1. Joe Foreman, 2. Stewart Pearl, 3. Nick Bingham, 4. Andy Weaver, 5. Ed Krawiecki, 6. Ashley Scriven, 7. Marcus Brown, 8. Umraan Jadwat, 9. Jack Jolly © (4c), 10. Harry O’Brien, 11 Matt Dight (T), 12. Nathan Tilsley, 13. Dan Kelly (T), 14., 15, Corey Venus (T).
Replacements: 16. JP Nel, 17. Zane Raimondi (YC), 18. Adam Clayton (T, YC), 19. Oscar Heath, 20. Adam Nunney.
Referee:- Samuel Phillips, ARs Mark Rose & Adrian Holmes