Fylde 45 Birmingham & Solihull 24
FOR the second week running, Fylde made a storming start but had to withstand a gallant comeback before claiming the spoils.
This time, it took a late four-try burst to avert a shock defeat by a much-improved Bees side, who were relegated for the second season running as a result.
National League One’s third-placed club had started their penultimate home game as unstoppably as they finished it, racing into a 14-point lead after only seven minutes and extending this to 21-0 in the 25th.
But then Fylde lost their way against a terrier-like Birmingham side. Despite fielding a scratch squad and coming to the Woodlands with just two replacements, the Bees fought their way back into the contest magnificently.
This was due to a mixture of their own determination and grit and to Fylde’s propensity to drop the ball.
And when the visitors took a 24-21 lead with their fourth try on the hour, it looked like them, rather than Fylde, who would record a fifth win in six games.
But then Fylde regained their early composure and stretched away with four more tries in the last ten minutes as Chris Briers completed his hat-trick.
It all started so promisingly for Fylde. With just a minute gone, their backs moved the ball right and winger Olly Viney sprinted clear down the touchline.
He drew the final defender before finding a fast-supporting Chris Briers on his inside and the centre finished off. Fly-half Richard Kenyon converted.
Handling errors were already creeping into Fylde’s game, but they earned field position inside the Bees half and worked a blindside move through lock Paul Arnold. Chris Briers took a quick pass and dived into the corner for his second try. Kenyon converted beautifully from the touchline.
The Birmingham pack were beginning to apply pressure but could not convert this into points. Fylde suffered a setback with the loss of Evan Stewart to a knee ligament injury in the 17th minute, but eight minutes later fellow flanker Steve McGinnis stretched the lead.
One of Fylde’s more effective forwards, McGinnis broke clear from a ruck on halfway for an outstanding try in the right corner. Kenyon again put in a superb conversion.
All was set for a Fylde feast of tries in front of another big and good-humoured crowd on ladies’ day at the Woodlands ... but the Bees hadn’t read the script.
They upped their game and took control. They harassed Fylde all over the pitch and, assisted by a litany of unforced errors by the home side, pressed deep in their opponents half.
Powerful centre Greg Evans was the first beneficiary as he cut a neat line through the Fylde defence for a good try, converted by Mark Woodrow.
By now the Bees had gained sufficient confidence to start throwing the ball around, and when it was worked left for winger Jack Pons, he sprinted clear down the middle for a 50-metre try.
Woodrow again converted and suddenly the Bees had a sniff of blood.
And when they attacked again in the dying moments of the half, makeshift scrum-half Woodrow raced clear down the right for an opportunistic try. He missed the conversion but at the interval Birmingham were right back in the hunt at 21-19.
The second half started in much the same way as the first had ended, Fylde lacking shape and spilling good ball.
Bees man of the match, skipper and stand-in No.8 Jack Preece was everywhere, frequently turning over Fylde possession.
His side camped inside the Fylde 22m and finally created enough space for lock David Markham to force his way over for a deserved try.
Woodrow’s conversion drifted wide but his side had the lead for the first time at 24-21 with 20 minutes left.
It took Fylde until the 70th minute to cast off the shackles and overrun the tiring visitors.
The crucial score was by winger Nick Royle, who took the ball in centre-field 35 metres out and arced around the defence for a superb try in the left corner. The conversion was missed but Fylde were back in front.
Six minutes later, winger Viney sprinted down the right touchline and passed inside to replacement flanker Josh Beaumont, who finished off the try in style. Kenyon again missed the conversion.
Fylde winger Oli Brennand had few opportunities to show his class until the 78th minute, when he raced down the left touchline from inside his own half, evading numerousefenders before putting on the afterburners and diving into the corner. Kenyon converted from the touchline made it 38-24.
Fylde were now at last showing their flair, completing the scoring in the final of stoppage time when Brennand found Chris Briers, who raced in for his third. Kenyon landed his fifth goal from wide out.
Fylde: Royle; Viney, S Briers, C Briers, Brennand; Kenyon, Wallwork; Livesey, Roddam, Altham, Arnold, Ferguson, Stewart, S Beaumont, McGinnis; replacements: Loney, Griffiths, J Beaumont, DePledge, McShane.