Hoppers fell to their third consecutive defeat 19-20 in controversial circumstances to Birmingham Solihull who recorded just their second win of the season.
The game was marred by issues regarding the clock management, which saw both halves last nearly fifty minutes, and the farce of uncontested scrums.
Whatever the reason for the game changing factors this is still a game that should have been won as Hoppers were dominant until the decision to have uncontested scrums. They only have themselves to blame for the loss with an abject second half performance that showed a naivety to adapt to the circumstances.
Head Coach Garth Dew said; “I’m lost for words really, we lost this game somehow even though Birmingham went down to 13 men. We butchered a certain try just minutes into the second half that would have killed off the game and didn’t capitalise when they were shown two yellow cards.”
“We had them dead and buried towards the end of the first half and only an interception brought them back into the game, the officiating at times was a farce as the time management meant we played well over time and the uncontested scrums were a major issue. They came with a back row playing in the front row and conveniently had two props leave injured when we had them under enormous pressure at the scrum.”
“It’s going to be hard to be pragmatic about this one as we lost that game and it’s on the back of a great performance at Sedgley and a week where we’ve trained well and implemented some new ideas and we looked good in the first half after a slow start. I keep saying this is a young team but it’s no excuse, we made some unforgivable errors and you could probably pick out 20 moments from that second half where we lost the game. However, we need to put this behind us, there is a lot of rugby left in the season and it’s back to the seven day cycle and Leicester Lions next week.”
Hoppers once again made a slow start to the game with missed tackles and basic errors allowing the visitors to take a three point lead from the boot of Adam Canning. However, as is often the case, the penalty allowed Hoppers to clear their lines and regroup and they dominated the half from then on with a solid forward display.
It was the set piece, especially the scrum, where Hoppers found a platform to attack; they were finally rewarded when Sam Whyte squeezed over midway through the half as the forwards had smashed their way to the line sucking in the defence.
The second score was a penalty try after Birmingham were first reduced to 14 for cynical play at the line-out by Liam Dunne and then Nick Bingham joined him moments later as the scrum intentionally collapsed with Hoppers easily driving to the line; this caused the decision to have uncontested scrums which completely changed the game.
Hoppers got their third try before the break as Billy Woof converted a huge overlap in the left corner after a good break from Phil Baines had exploited the uncontested scrum and put Hoppers deep into Birmingham’s territory. The Bees would counter this for the rest of the game by committing fewer men to these farcical set pieces.
Hoppers were flying but an interception on half time, even though the score board clock showed 51 minutes, presented Canning with a sprint to the line for a converted try. It was in effect a 14 point swing when Hoppers butchered a try in the opening minutes of the second half and as Birmingham rang the changes to get more speedy backs on the field at the expense of people no longer required for scrummaging and they started to get a hold on the game.
James Oliver score midway through the half after nice work from replacement Aquile Smith, and it was another surge by Smith that set up the game winning penalty in the 85th minute allowing Canning to slot the kick and take the spoils back down the M6.
The photos below are provided with the kind permission of Mike Craig.