Six tries – including a hat trick from winger Matt Dight – were more than sufficient to see off the challenge of Guernsey Raiders, as the Bees picked up five invaluable league points in their quest to dodge the relegation bullet.
The win saw the home side leap frog fellow relegation candidates Guernsey and London Irish Wild Geese and, with results in other games working in their favour, the Bees are now within 11 points of fourth from bottom side Barnes with a game in hand.
Windy conditions hadn’t caused any inbound travel issues for the Channel Islanders who landed at Birmingham Airport that morning, but they were certainly a factor as both sides ran onto the pitch at Portway. The visitors played with the wind in the first half and, despite an early penalty from Jack Jolly, found themselves in a 3-10 lead after 20 minutes thanks to tries from winger Daley Aremu and prop Patrick Schickerling.
Both scores were somewhat against the run of play, with the first try coming from an unforced error as the Bees were guilty of playing over-ambitious rugby in their own 22. Fly half Owen Thomas was unable to add the extras with either attempt and that was to prove to be their final entry on the scoresheet for the afternoon.
A try for fly half Harry O’Brien – successfully chasing a charged down kick - shifted the balance of the game back after 22 minutes. Just two minutes later, Matt Dight’s first of three tries – a move straight off the training ground which allowed the locally-reared youngster to show his electric pace – put the home side 15-10 up, after Jolly slotted the second conversion attempt.
The Bees’ control of proceedings was further asserted on the 35-minute mark with a try well finished by Matt Spink, after some more good interplay in the back division. Although Jolly was finding the windy conditions not conducive to kicking, his side went into the break 20-10 to the good.
With the elements in their favour in the second period, there was an expectation that the Bees would quickly secure their fourth and bonus point try and put the game beyond the reach of the Raiders.
However, the visitors’ defence was resolute and a growing sense of frustration from the home side was compounded by a yellow card for well-nourished prop Matt Probert, as his side were forced to defend their own line.
It wasn’t until the 28th minute and after a Jolly penalty attempt had gone wide that Matt Dight secured the all-important bonus point with his second score of the game. Relief and confidence began to course through apian veins in equal measure, with Dight bagging his hat-trick with three minutes remaining. Two successful Jolly conversions had put the contest well and truly out of sight for the Bees at 34-10.
There was still time for a sixth and final try – Zane Raimondi reminding the Portway faithful of his finishing abilities when in the loose, to round off a more satisfactory afternoon for the men in yellow and black.
The appreciative home crowd were also pleased to see the return of two former favourites to the fold in the form of Adam Clayton and Oscar Heath.
This weekend (Saturday 16th February, KO 3pm) sees the Bees make the 320 mile round trip down to Kent, to take on a Canterbury side who currently sit second in National League 2 South – a tough assignment by any measure.
Bees v Guernsey Raiders: 1. JP Nel, 2. Stewart Pearl, 3. Mathew Probert (YC) 4. Andy Weaver, 5. Matt Spink (T), 6. Ashley Scriven, 7. Michael Stephens, 8. Umraan Jadwat, 9. Jack Jolly © (P, 3), 10. Harry O’Brien (T), 11 Matt Dight (3T), 12. Dan Kelly, 13. Nathan Tilsley, 14. Oscar Heath, 15, Corey Venus.
Replacements: 16. Joe Foreman, 17. Zane Raimondi (T), 18. Adam Clayton, 19. Marcus Brown, 20. Adam Nunney.
Referee:- Benjamin Davis, ARs Andrew Ashwell & Jonathan Petzing