Birmingham Solihull 10 Preston Grasshoppers 24
Preston Grasshoppers returned from the Midlands with all five points after an impressive win over Birmingham Solihull.
Hoppers had 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 is a testament to the coaching staff and Hoppers players’ attitude and focus that they did not let any of these factors affect their game.
They produced 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.
Speaking after the game Preston 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 played the opening half into a strong wind and spent most of the opening half-hour in their own half.
But a stifling defence never looked like conceding a try.
In fact they took the lead after 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 tackling allowed Aquile Smith to score his first try for Birmingham Solihull.
But Hoppers regained the lead minutes into the second half when Altham powered over after a stolen line-out inside the Bees’ 22.
Smith snatched his second for the Bees after a mistake from a kick-through left the winger in space.
But Hoppers turned the screw with Taylor touching down from the base of a push-over scrum as the visitors chose to scrum penalties all the way from the 22 to score.
And the bonus point was secure when Napier downed a now familiar catch-and-drive try.