Johns leads the Bees to victory
Hat trick from winger Steve Johns helps Bees to an opening game victory against Scunthorpe
Match report by Ethan Walker
The Bees began their new 2017/18 campaign at Portway this weekend, welcoming Scunthorpe who had been relegated from National League 2 North last season. Following an unbeaten pre-season, which included a victory against current National 2 side Luctonians just the week before, the Bees’ faithful were optimistic of a winning start to this year’s league. They wouldn’t be disappointed, in what turned out to be a highly entertaining encounter between two physical sides.
A sunny, warm afternoon looked like the perfect setting for some flowing rugby, and so it proved, with Bees’ new signing Umraan Jadwatt making an immediate impact at No.8, after gathering the kick off and putting the home side on the front foot early on.
With the first quarter predominately played in the visitors’ half, it was a surprise to see Scunthorpe go ahead 0-3 with a penalty by Jake Goodison, after an infringement at the breakdown - one of Scunthorpe’s rare visits into Bees’ territory in the first period.
The home side replied with constant pressure both in defence and attack, giving no quarter. Eventually their efforts were to be rewarded - a well-executed lineout led to the ball being shipped out to try scorer Steve Johns, making a much-welcomed return to action after missing the entire 2016/17 season due to injury. Captain Jack Jolly was unable to convert, but the Bees were ahead 5-3.
The hosts continued to apply pressure on the Scunthorpe defence, asking questions and forcing errors, particularly at the line out with multiple steals by the Bees’ jumpers. Scunthorpe had the chance to put themselves in front with a penalty, but scrum half Goodison pushed it wide. Moments later, a high tackle by Scunthorpe allowed Jolly to take advantage from the resultant penalty, to make it 8-3.
An ankle injury to Bees’ hooker Zane Raimondi saw him helped off the pitch – however heavily strapped up, to the delight of Bees players and supporters alike, he returned to the fray 10 minutes later to continue to show his power up front.
The tables soon turned though, when centre Nathan Tilsley and lock Danny Wright were both shown yellow cards for separate offences in quick succession, close to the Bees’ try line. Down to 13 men with just a couple of minutes to go before the break, Scunthorpe duly took advantage and scored from a driving maul, making the score 8-10 after a successful conversion by Goodison.
Yet that wasn’t to be the final action of the half. Harry O’Brien, another new signing for Birmingham & Solihull who had impressed on his league debut with some well-placed kicks and timely passes, rounded off a good first period with a neat pass to Steve Johns to put him in for his second try, after some more solid work at the lineout by the forwards. Despite the conversion being short, the Bees were back in the lead at 13-10 at the break.
Having successfully seen out the opening 7 minutes with just 13 men on the pitch, the second half looked as though it was going to take some quick thinking as well as quick feet to break what was proving to be a very even contest.
Up stepped fly half Max Rodman, after showing good vision and a quick turn of pace hitting a gap and offloading to full back O’Brien, who once again linked up with winger Johns. Frustratingly, the pass was spilled but the classy winger soon made up for the mishap. Following another speedy break from Jadwatt, the Bees showed patience and professionalism culminating with a hat trick try for Johns under the posts. The simple conversion by Jolly put the Bees 20-10 to the good.
All was seemingly going well until replacement lock Matt Spink was red carded by referee Andy Smith, leaving his comrades down a player for the remainder of the game. Nerves grew as the Bees’ defence was continuously tested, the ever-present Jamie Dyson leading the assault. The Green’s openside flanker broke away and fed replacement Morgan Davies, who finished well in the left-hand corner. The conversion was unsuccessful, but Scunthorpe were back in the mix at 20-15.
Another break left the Bees defence stretched again, but – much to the relief and approval of the home fans - they showed strength and discipline to force a mistake and hear the final whistle sound, recording a victory for the first time on the opening day of the season since 2008.
With the first win of the season in the bag, attention now turns to local rivals Bournville next week in round two, who visit Portway (Saturday 9th September, KO 3pm) in what is set to be a tough derby day for sure.
Birmingham & Solihull:- 1. Kurtis Payne, 2 Zane Raimondi, 3. Matt Probert, 4. Andy Weaver, 5. Danny Wright (YC), 6. Ashley Scriven, 7. Michael Stephens, 8 Umraan Jadwatt, 9. Jack Jolly © (1P,1C), 10. Max Rodman, 11. Steve Johns (3T), 12. Nathan Tilsley (YC), 13. Jimmy Oliver, 14. Jevon Hinds, 15. Harry O’Brien, 16. Harry Smith, 17. Matt Spink (RC) & 18. Ben Phillips.
Referee: Andy Smith