Birmingham & Solihull will make their first appearance in a North Midlands Cup final in 23 years when they take on National Three Midlands rivals Newport at Dudley Kingswinford’s Heathbrook ground on May 8 (3.30pm).
The Bees beat Hereford 35-0 at Moseley’s former home at The Reddings in March 1993 the last time they appeared in the county cup final, since when they have been ineligible to compete in the tournament as a Championship or National League club.
But relegation to the Midlands leagues at the end of last season meant a return to the North Midlands Cup for the Bees who beat Bromsgrove and Old Halesonians to reach Sunday’s final.
The Old Halesonians’ win was the Bees ninth in 11 matches since former coaches Paul Williams and Dave Spencer returned to the club in mid-season. Although Pete Glackin will join the Bees as new head of rugby for next season, the Gloucester-based pair of Williams and Spencer will remain involved in an advisory capacity.
“It has been a brilliant recovery from the lads to haul themselves from the foot of the table to seventh in the second half of the season and of course also to reach a cup final,” Spencer said.
“Performance has improved considerably in this period, understanding of how, where and what type of rugby to play on the field has developed strongly and how to close a tight game down and win the points is now being achieved week after week.”
“It is fantastic to have had all the support from everyone in the Bees family and Paul and I have had enormous fun and we both sincerely hope we are stepping down at the right time with the team in a really good shape.
We are still going to be here at the club next season and will give as much support as possible to the players and the new coaches throughout the new season’s campaign.”
Birmingham & Solihull’s run of wins under Williams and Spencer included a victory at Forton Road which helped to send Newport back to Midlands One West next season.
Newport won at Portway earlier in the campaign but, despite that victory, their director of rugby Chris Wilde insists that the Shropshire club will start as underdogs on Sunday.
“There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that we will start this game as the underdogs. Our opponents were playing Championship rugby less than five years ago and after a poor start in National Three they have got their act together and finished the season very strongly whilst we have had a poor season and been relegated,” he said.
“We know exactly how they will play. Kick for territory, retain possession, play risk-free, safety first rugby. It’s not very entertaining but they do it very effectively and it works for them.
“We are working on strategies to counter this style of play. If we can defend the catch and drive and their rolling maul and keep them out of our danger zone then I really think we have a chance. The weather will play a big part and we are hoping for a decent day so that we can move them round the park and play an open and expansive game.
“It’s high risk but it’s the only way we will win. If we create 4 or 5 chances we have to take 3 of them. We won’t get many and we can’t afford to squander them. This depends on everyone being on top of their game and why shouldn’t they be for a cup final?”
“If we try and take them on in an arm wrestle then there will only be one outcome and we will lose.
“Many ex-players can go a whole career without getting the chance to play in a cup final so we have to embrace that opportunity and make sure we both enjoy and rise to such a challenge.”
Sunday will be Newport’s fifth appearance in the North Midlands Cup final following a defeat bv Bromsgrove .in 2001, a win over the same opponents in 2011, runners-up to Dudley Kingswinford in 2012 and winners again in 2014 when they beat Worcester Wanderers.
The North Midlands Cup final will be one of five finals played at Dudley Kingswinford on May 8.
Old Saltleians will take on Kidderminster Carolians in the North Midlands Shield final at 1.30pm with Redditch facing Bredon Star in the North Midlands Vase final at 11.15am.
There are also three Plate finals for sides beaten in the early rounds of the three competitions.
In the North Midlands Vase Plate Church Stretton will play Greyhound (11.15am), Droitwich will face Old Yardleians in the North Midlands Shield Plate final (1.30pm) with Bromsgrove and Whitchurch meeting in the North Midlands Cup Plate final at (3.30pm).