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Shield semi rekindles memories for Maynard

28 February 2005

Pertemps Bees director of rugby Phil Maynard hopes the Powergen Shield semi-final against Bedford Blues on March 5 will rekindle memories of last season's Powergen Cup campaign.

Solihull-based Bees stormed to the semi-finals of the Cup by stunning London Wasps 28-24 at the Causeway Stadium in the biggest cup upset since rugby went professional.

It was a win that put the National One club on the rugby map but the Bees have struggled to live up to expectations this season, slumping into the bottom half of the table after they led the division in October with five consecutive maximum points wins.

"We have found it a little difficult to live up to expectations this season," Maynard admitted. "We enjoyed the publicity and the profile that the cup run gave us last season but this season has been a bit of anti-climax.

"We are not going to get promoted or relegated so we have made the Shield the focus of our season. The chance to play at Twickenham is a huge incentive for a club like ours and we hope that the competition will raise our profile in the same way that the cup did 12 months ago.

"It's very different preparing the side for the Bedford semi to the anticipation that preceded the Wasps and Newcastle games last year. But it's a game that has certainly captured the imagination of the public and it's an occasion we are looking forward to."

Bedford have already sold more than 1,200 tickets for the tie and the Bees are expecting a crowd of around double that number to pack their homely Sharmans Cross Road headquarters.

Ironically the Bees' cup success last season meant they disqualified themselves from participation in the Shield and their place was taken in the competition by Waterloo, who they defeated in the fourth round of the cup.

"We wanted the chance to pit ourselves against the best clubs outside the Premiership and we have got that this season," Maynard said.

With Solihull, the Bees' amateur arm, in action in the Powergen Junior Vase semi-final at North Bristol on Saturday, there is a double incentive for Maynard's side to book a trip to Twickenham on April 16.

"If we could both get to Twickenham on the same day that would be a fantastic day out and a great achievement for the area," Maynard said.

The Bees are expected to recall former Gloucester and Worcester openside flanker Nathan Carter for the Bedford tie. Carter missed last Saturday's narrow league defeat at Plymouth Albion because of neck injury but Tom Jordan is cup-tied having appeared for Stourbridge against Coventry in the Powergen Cup earlier in the season.