A superb performance by Rosslyn Park left Birmingham & Solihull effectively chasing shadows as Jan Bonney's men made it eight wins out of nine with a comfortable 59-12 win away from home.
On the rare occasions they were allowed to settle, the “Bees” looked as if they could play a bit, but Park’s tigerish tackling allowed the visiting forwards to create a platform from which their backs caused mayhem.
In the very first minute, Park turned over possession for full-back Nev Edwards to burst through and pass outside where John Rudd did the rest to score on the right. Ross Laidlaw defied a strong diagonal wind in Birmingham’s favour to land a good conversion for 7-0.
Worse was to come for the home side, who had barely settled when scrum half Graham Barr got the ball in midfield and noticed a clear path to the line in front of him.
He had to make a couple of shifts of direction and gear to shake off his pursuers, but he made it to increase the lead to 12-0 after only three minutes. This time the wind won the battle to divert Laidlaw’s conversion attempt.
A rare incursion by the home side won – and missed - a penalty before Park were back at them. Paul Unseld tried a chip through, but it was too far ahead of him and was returned with interest on the wind.
Dom Shabbo made a great run through the middle and probably should have passed outside rather than inside. But Park were unstoppable anyway, forcing a scrum from which Chris Lewis made an incisive run through the middle; the ball was recycled via Laidlaw across to the right where Rudd was able to return the compliment for an earlier “assist” by putting in Edwards. Laidlaw’s superb conversion made it 19-0 on 15 minutes.
The “Bees” may have been heavily out-gunned but they never gave up and fired a warning salvo when Park were pinged for not releasing and a missed tackle on Park’s left flank allowed flanker Matt Reeves to gallop in to score, well converted by Daniel Hawkes to peg back the deficit to 19-7.
Park were straight back at them and eventually Lewis brought about a score with a strong run and a pass out to Unseld, who scored a classic winger’s try.
There really was no gap in the corner when he flung himself at the line, and he may have landed outside the field of play, but at the instant he touched it down the ball was the only thing in contact with the ground, in play, and the touch judge was right on the spot to unhesitatingly confirm the try. The wind gained an equaliser in its battle with Laidlaw’s conversion attempts, but Park had pocketed their four-try bonus point after only 27 minutes.
The Bees battled gamely and looked nailed on to score when an all-out attack pinned Park back close to their line and visiting prop Lorne Ward was shown the yellow card, with five minutes to half time. But Park won the ensuing scrummage short-handed and when Rudd eventually ran out of defence to the sanctuary of half way the chance had gone.
Starting the second half a man short, Park attacked from the off, banged a penalty to the corner but spoiled the chance by knocking on. However, they soon gained another penalty and this time retained possession from the throw and moved the ball inside from where Dom Shabbo scampered over, his try converted by Laidlaw with barely five minutes of the half gone.
Back to full-strength, the visitors began to really assert. A super run through the middle by Edwards ended with the ball lost, but it was soon regained and when Park drove over it was Ward who had gone from villain to hero with the score.
Two minutes later came the try of the match, which had even the home supporters cheering. Unseld received the ball just inside his own half with nothing looking “on”. But he just lit the after-burners and went for it, sheer pace and the odd high speed shimmy defying tacklers before he dived full length to score beneath the posts. Laidlaw’s conversion made it 45-7.
Credit to Birmingham, they kept trying and their efforts were rewarded with a good try from number 8 Mark Hopley after an attack up the right saw the ball passed inside along the line and he crashed over. But that’s as good as it got for the Bees.
All credit to them Birmingham still really went for it, but in a way that made the charge of the light brigade look tactically astute. They left a yawning gap for Park to hack the ball on into their half, where replacement Miles Mantella hared away virtually unchallenged: his first touch of the ball after coming on was to kick it on further and the second to pick it up at full speed and score. Laidlaw converted.
Unable to take the hint, four minutes later and another yawning gap, Mantella again sauntered away to score completely unchallenged. Laidlaw’s conversion made it 59-12 and set the seal on a thoroughly good afternoon’s work.
Park: Edwards; Unseld, Shabbo (Mantella), Lewis, Rudd; Laidlaw; Barr (Baxter); Ovens, Gotting, Ward (Huggett); Lloyd-Jones, Anderson; Trayfoot (Campbell), Barrett, Lock Sub (did not play): Richmond Park scorers: Unseld (2T), Mantella (2T), Rudd (T), Barr (T), Edwards (T), Shabbo (T), Ward (T), Laidlaw (7C).