Moment in Time: Birmingham and the 2004 Powergen Cup quarter-final

London Wasps players clap off Birmingham after their shock defeat in 2004 No one gave Pertemps Bees a prayer before this Powergen Cup quarter-final. Wasps, the English champions, were well on course to defend their title and would eventually cap a remarkable campaign by winning the Heineken Cup as well. But all that counted for nothing when Phil Maynard’s side rocked up at the Causeway Stadium, fit and raring to go.
Maynard recalls: “Walking into the ground there was a red carpet along the concourse and I noticed there were signs advertising their semi-final away trip to Newcastle. Wasps were actually advising people to buy their tickets before the game because they wanted to fill five buses. I thought, ‘that’s a bit strong’ and the girl on reception said, ‘I know, I warned them!’
“We’d been written off, as you’d expect, but we were having a tremendous season in National One and had a team of experienced guys, all of whom had done good things in their rugby careers and had found their best form. We played it down on the way in, but I always had a sneaking suspicion that we could do something special given the chance.”
With the seeds of complacency sown, Wasps director of rugby Warren Gatland added fuel to the Bees’ fire by announcing he was resting the likes of Lawrence Dallaglio, Alex King, Fraser Waters and Josh Lewsey. And Maynard’s sense of determination was heightened further when Kiwi match referee Paul Honiss, guesting in England during the Six Nations, visited the visitors’ dressing room beforehand.
“Honiss came in and said, ‘are you Phil Maynard, I’d like a word.’ He said, ‘I know you’ve worked hard to get here and I want to give you a chance’. I said we were going to make a bun-fight of it at the breakdown and tackle area and get into them like that, and he replied, ‘if you do it legally, I’ll allow it’. I thought, ‘we’ll see’, because refs usually go with the bigger team.
“But it turned out to be a pivotal moment, because in the first 10 Simon Shaw split his nose after running into our flanker, Hesekaia Fakatou. Shaw was lying near the touchline when Honiss ran over and said, ‘get this guy off’. Their physio replied, ‘do you know who this is?’ But Honiss was having none of it and said, ‘I don’t care who it is, just get him off’. That set the tone and I looked at my coach standing next to me and said, ‘we’ve got a chance here, mate!’”
Indeed they did. Wasps ran into a 19-6 lead courtesy of tries from Mike Roberts, Stuart Abbott and George Skivington but were rocked just before half-time when Midlands try-scoring machine Nick Baxter dotted down in the corner. “It’s rumoured that I discovered Nick Baxter standing at a bus-stop… and it’s true,” jokes Maynard, who gave one of National League rugby’s best ever finishers his debut at Kings Norton before taking him to Worcester and the Bees.
Replacement lock Aaron Takarangi cut the deficit further after the break, capitalising on slack defensive work from Wasps, and despite the home side adding a fourth try through Ayoola Erinle, three successful penalties from the much-travelled Mark Woodrow saw the Bees leading 25-24 as the game entered its closing stages.
“It was no surprise to me we were winning,” says Maynard. “They had Trevor Leota throwing in at lineouts and we’d worked out that he couldn’t hit a cow’s backside with a banjo, so we put a lot of pressure on that area and turned over a lot of ball.
“We attacked that, restricted the space the Wasps backs had in the second half and it all came off on the day. They had become more and more defensive-minded, sitting on their lead, and as the penalties started coming, Woody knocked over his kicks.”
Woodrow’s 80th-minute penalty sealed the victory, leaving Wasps hugely embarrassed and the Pertemps Bees celebrating one of the greatest shocks in RFU Senior Cup history. Their reward? No prize money and a thankless trip to Newcastle, where they lost 53-3. Still, who cares when you’ve beaten the league champions?
Maynard adds: “We had a crack at Wasps, rode our luck a little bit and the only thing Wasps didn’t win that season was the Powergen Cup. Shaun Edwards was kicking water bottles and stuff at the end and it was certainly a day to savour. I remember saying to the receptionist on the way out, ‘you can take all those signs down now!’”
1. Kevin Tkachuck: The Canadian international prop signed for Glasgow in 2004 where he played for a further seven years. Now teaches history at Wellington College in Berkshire.
2. Rob Merritt: Retired from senior rugby in 2005 to concentrate on his role as a steel company director. Played for Bromsgove for three years before a short last fling at Stourbridge.
3.Terry Sigley: Spent three years with Gloucester from 2004, then had brief spells at Bath, Sale and Northampton before joining Moseley in 2008. Currently playing for French outfit Dijon.
4. Alex Davidson: Remained with Birmingham until 2010, after which he joined Luctonians where he is now director of rugby.
5. Ed Orgee: Joined La Rochelle for a season in 2006 before embarking on a round the world adventure. Briefly returned to Bees but retired in 2009. Now runs Midland Vans Online.
6. Hesekaia Fakatou: Joined Stourbridge in 2006 where he stayed for two years before moving to Bradford & Bingley. Back in the Midlands now and last season turned out for Bournville.
7. Nathan Carter: Joined Cinderford in 2005 and is now head coach of Gloucester Gordon League.
8. Jim Jenner: Joined Stourbridge in 2006 but returned to Bees for a year in 2008. Now runs Kindercare Day Nurseries as well as a house building company.
9. Paul Knight: A builder by trade, joined Cinderford in 2008 where he spent two seasons before joining Old Patesians as backs coach. Now head coach at Coney Hill.
10. Mark Woodrow: ‘Have boots will travel’ is the motto for Woodrow, an electrician, who turned out for Stourbridge last season after spells with Bristol, Napoli, Nottingham, Doncaster, Birmingham (twice more) and Viadana.
11. Nick Baxter: Joined Stourbridge in 2006, then turned out for Kings Norton again before embarking on a career in the wine industry. Now a recruitment consultant for Michael Page Finance.
12. Mike Davies: Joined Maesteg in 2005, then played for Pontypridd, Bridgend and Tata Steel, whom he captained to the Swalec League Division One West title last season.
13. Shaun Woof: Spent 2005-6 at Sedgeley Park before joining Caldy, where he still plays.
14. Luke Nabaro: Moved to Bristol in 2004, then joined Doncaster before returning to the West County in 2009 to play for Old Redcliffians, where he is still going strong.
15. Dave Knight: Joined Cinderford in 2008 before becoming backs coach at Old Centralians in 2010. An aircraft maintenance engineer at Gloucester Airport.
Aaron Takarangi (for Davies, 31): Joined Coventry in 2006, then moved to Nuneaton before rejoining Cov in 2010. Now breeds bulldogs for a living at
Rob Walton (for Davidson, 59): Joined Rotherham in 2005, but didn’t stay long and spent two seasons at Hinckley before joining Coventry in 2008. Recently re-signed for Cov.
Wasps Team: Tom Voyce, Mike Roberts, Ayoola Erinle, Stuart Abbott, John Rudd, Peter Richards, Harvey Biljon, Tim Payne, Trevor Leota, Will Green, Simon Shaw, Richard Birkett, George Skivington, Tom Rees, Ian Clarke. Reps: Ben Gotting, Ali McKenzie, Martin Purdy, James Haskell, Rob Howley, Mark Denney, Mark van Gisbergen

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