provide winning argument on possession Nov 7 2005
By Brian Dick, Rugby Correspondent ,At Stourton Park
Stourbridge 3 Moseley 10
Despite evidence to the contrary located a couple of inches above, Stourbridge actually won this match. Not on the scoreboard perhaps but in every other way possible.
Territorially they pushed Moseley so far back that the visitors needed a taxi just to return to the changing rooms at half time and full time. Their dominance of possession was so complete that a second, even a third, ball would not have been enough to restore parity.
But possession is only nine tenths of the law and Moseley somehow successfully subverted their shortcomings in that area and reached the sixth round of the Powergen Trophy having structured their case with the flimsiest of evidence. Chris Holder's try five minutes before the first cab arrived was the only occasion when either side managed to string two passes together and, to Stourbridge's discredit, was enough to win a fractious local derby.
Home director of rugby, Neil Mitchell, praised his team's commitment to the cause - he was right to do so after last weekend's embarrassment at the hands of Waterloo - but could not ignore their attacking shortcomings either.
Unfortunately for Mitchell his side's ability to fashion a way past opposition defences does not match their ingenuity in turning unassailable positions into lost causes - especially at home.
Their run of one win at Stourton Park since December last year - and that was against lower-ranked opposition in the previous round - continues unabated. But there is no way it should.
The hosts squandered overlaps, spurned kicks at goal, slipped a yard out or even dropped the ball with the line gaping. They took profligacy to genius level.
It wasn't just a second-half phenomenon, either. They managed to do it from the first whistle to the last.
With less than two minutes gone the home side produced a two on one and what happened? Duncan Hughes ran into Andy Binns and ignored his support player. Chance gone.
After the first quarter Moseley stepped offside 25 metres from their own line - only slightly to the right of the posts - and Toby Handley tapped the penalty straight into Binns' arms instead of allowing Hughes to kick it between the posts.
The next ten minutes were spent with No 8 Julian Horrobin tripping up, blindside Hese Fakatou knocking on and then being held up when all he had to do was touch the ball into the base of the post. It was excruciating to watch.
Then the unthinkable. Neil Mason injected purpose into a Moseley counter-attack and fed Holder whose angle of running was so murderous no one got near him over 30 metres. Ollie Thomas added the conversion and a larceny to make Ronnie Biggs blush was afoot.
Thomas and Hughes swapped penalties before Binns was dismissed for peevishly kicking out and normal service was resumed.
It lasted until the very final whistle which came as James O'Brien fumbled Fakatou's off-load with nothing but thin air between him and the left corner.
What could Mitchell do but to find positives? "The performance forward-wise was so much better than against Waterloo," he said. "They looked like a first-class division two pack. But we made a lot of silly errors."
Stourbridge had been routed by the Liverpudlians, failing to win any first-phase ball in the process, and that was clearly something that had been rectified in the intervening week.
Locks Jon Taylor and Simon Homer took most of their own throw in the lineout, the front row, including converted flanker James Tideswell at tighthead, did well in the scrum, and in the loose the back three of Fakatou, Horrobin and Tom Jordan asked more questions of the visitors' trio than vice versa.
Alas Handley's distribution from rucks was messy and too often the three-quarter line would pitch the ball into touch instead of finding a team-mate.
Moseley didn't have a lot to be proud about either - aside from their Herculean defensive effort.
It is obvious that most of their key performers, having spent the entire game on the retreat, were destroyers rather than creators.
Neil Mason was omnipotent around the fringes although Stour were visibly irked by what they perceived to be excesses in the Worcester flanker's game, and he led a determined visiting pack that refused to buckle.
Outside him it was pretty pedestrian stuff and Mitchell's counterpart, John Beale, was equally stretched to find something nice to say.
So he didn't bother. "We didn't come here not to play but as it happened we didn't play at all," Beale said. "We had no momentum, didn't go through our phases and missed the couple of chances we created.
"Our kicking game was shocking. It was the worst performance of the season and might even have been the worst performance of the last two seasons.
"But to be fair our defence was outstanding and we showed we have got spirit in the side." And off he went to the rank to hail a lift back to the clubhouse.