Hoppers returned from the midlands with all five points after an impressive win over Birmingham Solihull.
There was revenge on their minds after the Bees had won a controversial game at Lightfoot Green earlier in the season, due to uncontested scrums and the use of replacements. Add poor weather conditions into the mix and this was a tricky fixture as the strong wind made the contest a real game of two halves.
It’s a testament to the coaching staff and the player’s attitude and focus that they did not let any of these factors affect their game, producing a professional and astute performance to nullify the conditions in the first half before opening up a lead in the second with a powerful display. Once again the forwards will take the plaudits for the win thanks to another impressive display but the backs played there part especially in defence.
Speaking after the game Head Coach Garth Dew said; “I’m thrilled with the win, the confidence that we have taken since the victory over Stockport shows and we look a different team now. We controlled the game into the wind and stood up to a real test of our defence.”
“The conditions were difficult but it works both ways and it’s hard to play with the wind as it is against it, you can’t just rely on kicking as we showed in the first half, the lads trusted the defence we had in place and then in the second half we were in complete control.”
“Once again we had dominance up front and this was without a couple of key players, I thought Pete Altham was outstanding and destroyed their scrum. The back-row was key; Will Lees was the standout player, Andy Napier is a real workhorse and Chris Taylor is a very classy rugby player. It’s also good to see Jack Banks have another good game, he quietly works away and has really taken his chance in the first XV”
Hoppers started into the wind and spent most of the opening half hour in their own half but a stifling defence never looked like conceding a try. Hoppers were dominating the scrum, capitalised on Birmingham’s mistakes and were aggressive at the breakdown giving their hosts little space to work with and made their tackles when required out wide.
In fact they took the lead after a turnover and a poor kick from the hosts was run back into Bees territory before a clever kick by Taylor was seized upon by Phil Baines whose inside ball put Lewis Allen clear.
Just before the break a lapse in concentration and poor tackling from the visitors allowed Rob Connolly to cut through the defence and set up Aquile Smith to score his first try but Hoppers regained the lead minutes into the second half when Altham powered over after a stolen line-out inside the Bees 22 with Allen converting.
Smith snatched his second for the Bees after a Hoppers mistake in their own 22, when they failed to deal with a kick through and the winger capitalised on the confusion to score.
However it was all Hoppers after that as they turned the screw with two tries to secure the bonus point. Chris Taylor touched down from the base of a push over scrum as Hoppers elected to take the scrum at a number of penalties from the 22 to score, again converted by Allen.
And in what is now becoming something of a trademark score they executed a catch and drive all the way from the 22 with power and precision allowing Andy Napier a simple touchdown.
Looking forward Dew said; “Leicester Lions will be a similar tough game next week, we smashed them at home and we will be travelling with confidence and expecting a win. Before Christmas I know there were a few doubt around and while we are not out of the woods yet we realistically can target 7th or 8th and a top half finish which would be a good result.”
Birmingham Solihull 10-24 Preston Grasshoppers