It was more strawberry season than rugby season at sun-soaked Solihull yesterday, as home supporters turned out in their thousands to welcome Harlequins to the real rugby world where rank and reputation count for very little.
Solihull had not seen anything like it. The car parks were full and the bars were bulging long before the kick-off. The Second XV pitch was covered with marquees and motors; it was not Twickenham at its most twee, but it wasn't half bad all the same.
Harlequins knew what to expect, having had a quiet butchers' at their destination the night before. What they saw was a chaotic collection of buildings, dominated by a well-equipped clubhouse, and a stand running the length of one side of the pitch while the dug-out was a simple affair on the opposite side.
Compared with what has been constructed in South West London, Sharmans Cross Road is club rugby at its roots. And Quins are now a part of this world, where they must scuffle with the likes of Sedgley Park, Doncaster, Newbury, Rotherham, Bedford and of course Pertemps Bees, aka Birmingham & Solihull.
The Bees had not exactly rolled out a red carpet for their illustrious visitors, and despite the scoreline, nor did the Midlanders roll over for them.
The 3,000 crowd - twice the Bees' previous highest attendance - which squeezed into the groundwas treated to the sight of the former All Black fly-half Andrew Mehrtens controlling the flow of the game effortlessly, providing the Bees' own No 10 Tim Walsh with a kicking master class out of hand and off the tee.
But while remaining the superior force, particularly out wide where the tries came from, Quins still made a lot of unforced errors, which had they been confronted by a team of full-time professionals in the Premiership would have had them on the back foot and well behind. But the Bees' part-timers, including a wine salesman, a surveyor, a property developer and an aircraft maintenance man, were not sharp enough to take advantage.
They held on for a long time, a lot longer than their director of rugby Phil Maynard had expected. "I thought they should have put 50 points on us," he said. "Anything less should not be considered a result. They won't have it all their own way in this division."
But the Fancy Dans from London still won and the message Harlequins sent out to the rest of the First Division after this five-try demolition was that, once they iron out their errors and get their act together, they should take some stopping. The next step is at Otley next weekend. Every game from here on in will test Quins.
Pertemps Bees: D Knight; T Beim, A Billig, S Martin (M Davies, 67), N Baxter; T Walsh (R Lamb, 53), P Knight; A le Chevalier, M Miles (B Gerry, 65), M Long (R Leilua, 72), B Hughes, E Orgee (capt; R Hurrell, 4), T Tamarua (H Fakatou, 69), C Trayhern, D White (J Jenner, 53).
Harlequins: T Williams; G Harder, G Duffy (W Greenwood, 62), J Turner-Hall, U Monye; A Mehrtens (A Jarvis, 78), S So'iaolo (I Vass, 57); A Rogers (L Ward, 69), J Richards (T Fuga, 57), R Nebbett, J Evans, S Miall (N Easter, 57), A Vos (capt), T Diprose (P Bouza, 57), L Sherriff.
Referee: M Fox (Leicestershire).Reuse content