For their final league game of the season, The Greens entertained the league champions, Birmingham Solihull, on a warm spring afternoon. The game gave a bumper crowd a good mix of ingredients ranging from high intensity and physicality, open rugby with some strong running, some mysterious refereeing and cards of both colours.
Scunthorpe started without 3 influential players in Paul Cook, Dave Garbutt and Sam Morgan. Into the squad came Eddie Newsum, Rory Rendell-Tyrell and Mick Dunk. Both teams started fairly sedately, until after only 5 minutes Oli Wood spotted a mid-field gap which he fully exploited to give Mick Dunk a run in on the right wing, for the first try. Will Robinson added the extras to put the home boys ahead with a 7 points to nil advantage. The Bees got into their stride and following multiple phases, they worked an overlap on the left wing to put Matt Dight into the corner, in the 14th minute. Jack Jolly failed with the conversion and the home team was therefore still in front by 7 points to 5.
Defences where, for the most part still on top and no clear advantage for either team at the set pieces. Following a penalty after 26 minutes Tom Foster put the ball into touch in the visiting ‘22’. From the resulting driving maul, The Greens where awarded a penalty try for The Bees dragging, albeit unsuccessfully, the maul down. These 7 points put the home boys in front by 14 points to 5. As play ventured into the 8th minute of added time, Birmingham managed to score in the right hand corner when Jevon Hinds exploited a gap on the blind side of the ruck. Jolly converted with an excellent strike to put his side only two points behind at 14 to 12 as the teams went into the break.
The Bees were first out of the blocks in the second period and following much pressure, it was Jolly who got on the board with a try after just 5 minutes. He also managed to add the extras to put his side in front by 19 points to 14. Neither team had at this stage, been completely comfortable with the refereeing which also resulted in much banter from the side lines. After 12 minutes of the second half, it was Scunthorpe’s turn to up the pressure and following numerous drives, Ben Hyde drove through the visitors defence to touch down close to the posts. A Birmingham player, whilst attempting to prevent the score used his legs which went into Hydes’ back. This set off a chain reaction as first Hyde and then others showed their dissatisfaction, which was immediately followed by most of the players on the pitch joining in. The referee who only two minutes earlier had yellow carded a visiting player, now decided to red card 2 players from each side. One of the home players to be so carded was Grant Elliott who had not taken part in the fracas. Will Robinson added the conversion and Scunthorpe had now retaken the lead by 21 points to 19. The Referee restarted play by awarding a penalty to The Bees from half-way and Ben Phillip decided to have a pop at goal which was missed to the left hand side of the posts.
Scunthorpe were however pinned back into their own ’22’ and following a kick along the touch-line, which the home players claimed went into touch, Dight gathered and went over for his second try. Harry O’Brian added the extras and The Bees were now in front by 26 points to 21. Play moved back and forth with the home boys doing most of the pressing but once again it was the visitors who broke down the left hand side for Jimmy Oliver to touch down. With the conversion missed it was The Bees now in charge at 31 points to 21. As the home boys renewed their efforts, forward power took them to within 5 metres of the Bees line. Ollie Cole saw a chance on the blind side and beat the cover with a swallow dive and one handed touchdown in the corner. Robinson was unable to improve the try and the scored thus remained at 31 points to 26 in favour of the Birmingham boys with time rapidly running out. It was Scunthorpe that did most of the pressing in the closing stages and were in fact only 5 metres short when the final whistle blew.
A frustrating afternoon in some respects but also a very absorbing contest which was, to some extent controversially refereed. With the league season now ended, The Greens next task is to bring home the Lincolnshire cup on the 7th May when they play Market Rasen at Kesteven Rugby Club ground near Grantham.