Holders Worcestershire & Herefordshire booked their place in the Three Counties Championship final with a 27-15 win over Greater Birmingham in an entertaining final group match at Stourbridge.
The result means that the same sides will meet again in the final at Telford Hornets on March 13 and dashed Shropshire’s hopes of making the final.
All three counties finished with a win apiece but W&H topped the table with this bonus point win and a vital losing bonus point against Shropshire two weeks ago.
Greater Birmingham, who launched the competition with a bonus point win over Shropshire, played a full part in a fast and open affair and with better finishing they might have ended the champions’ quest for a fourth successive title.
Instead a try in each half from Bromsgrove number eight Drew Harper, on his W&H debut, and a brilliant long range effort from Kidderminster Carolians wing Arthur Morgan 15 minutes from time proved decisive.
Both sides had to contend with a strong downfield wind but W&H made better use of it in the second half which allowed them to relieve the pressure and pin back Greater Birmingham’s dangerous three-quarters.
Greater Birmingham took the lead midway through the first half when Handsworth centre TJ Clarke crossed near the posts from a quick tap penalty and Sutton Coldfield full-back Joel James added the conversion.
James well short with a penalty attempt from just inside his own half and Greater Birmingham’s failure to turn pressure into points when they had the wind at their backs proved costly.
W&H made their own pressure count when Bromsgrove prop Cam Simpson burrowed over from close range and Kidderminster Carolians fly-half Freddie Morgan kicked the conversion.
Harper went over from close range for his first try after 34 minutes and James and Freddie Morgan then traded penalties in the final three minutes of the half to give W&H a five points lead at the break.
Morgan was off target with a penalty attempt early in the second half and Greater Birmingham squandered an opportunity at the other end when they launched a superb counter-attack from deep, then won a kickable penalty but they opted for a quick tap-and-go and then turned over possession.
W&H were more clinical in attack and the experienced Harper capitalised by muscling over while Greater Birmingham had both locks, Adam Lee and Sam Rhodds, in the sin bin.
The conversion was missed which kept Greater Birmingham in the hunt but they wasted another try-scoring opportunity when they kicked away possession in a good attacking possession and Arthur Morgan raced away from his own 22 for a try that his brother improved.
Greater Birmingham finished strongly and Aston OE prop Julius Hunt barrelled over five minutes from time but they had left themselves too much to do to deny the holders and help Shropshire.