BIG MATCH PREVIEW by PETER WOODROOFE

Manchester v Moseley, National League 2,

Grove Park, Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, 29 April, 3.00pm

Joy unconfined…
It’s difficult to find an appropriate adjective to describe the occasion at Billesley last Saturday when Moseley became champions of National League 2.

As the final whistle went after a hugely entertaining game against Launceston, many of the Moseley faithful, especially those who had done so much to ensure the survival of the club since it struggled to compete in, and come to terms with, the professional era of our game, experienced a veritable gamut of intense, personal emotions.

A ‘miraculous’ occasion comes to mind, but there has been such confidence instilled in the players by the coaches after last season’s build-up that they were equipped to bounce back after each of their two defeats and showing resilience throughout the season, even when not playing particularly well.

‘Rewarding’, definitely, but arguably ‘wonderful’ describes the occasion when in their first season at their new ground, the players finished the job convincingly in front of the largest crowd of the season at Billesley, including many Moseley former players attending their Annual Reunion – amongst them, former internationals COLIN McFADYEAN, NICK JEAVONS, NIGEL HORTON, MARTIN COOPER and Moseley’s President in his last year, JAN WEBSTER, illustrating Moseley distinguished history.

‘Wonderful’ in the sense of a very remarkable occasion, the end of Moseley’s annus mirabilis since leaving the University. Enough euphoria…

Back to earth…
On Saturday, Moseley travel to meet Manchester in their last League game of the season. They won’t actually go to Manchester, but to Cheadle Hulme in Cheshire. They are not the only club that plays in a different area to its name. Next season, Moseley will be playing Sedgley Park who play in Whitefield, a suburb of Manchester, and Penzance and Newlyn, the Cornish Pirates, now playing at Truro, though they may be returning to Penzance, according to rumour.

Coventry are at the Butts Park Arena, though still in Coventry, and of course, Moseley don’t play at Moseley any more, but at least they still play in Birmingham 13!

Pressure off
Virtually for the first time since the two clubs met last September in the first League match of the season (it seems a long time ago now), the Moseley squad are not under pressure, though they will still be keen to maintain the great run of 13 consecutive wins since Christmas and end the season in style.

Mid-table
Manchester, after winning 32-16 at Halifax last week, are lying 6th in National 2, four points below Wharfedale and four in front of Barking. They have won 12, drawn 2 and lost 11 games.

Since Christmas, halfway through the season, they have won 5, drawn 1 and lost 7 games, an average-type season, their second after relegation from National One. Significant victories have been doing the double over Redruth, Orrell, Stourbridge and Halifax.

Sights on next season…

Manchester’s Director of Rugby, DAVE BALDWIN, formerly of Sale, is looking for an improvement next season, now Manchester have settled down in National 2.

Manchester have missed the scoring power of Kenyan winger LUCAS ONYANGO, who scored 24 League tries last season before moving on to pastures new.

They have scored 59 tries this season, compared to Moseley’s 99. Their leading try scorer to date is full-back or wing JONATHAN LOWDEN on 10, with winger DAVE WOOD the next highest on eight.

Newcomers signed this season include flanker DANNY COLLINS from Rugby Lions, full-back SEAN HANNAH from Blaydon, and centre CRAIG COOPER from Exeter. Influential is backs player/coach ISAAC RICHMOND who has made almost 100 League appearances scoring 27 tries in his career at Manchester. Their leading points scorer is fly-half ANDRE WILSON with 138.

Manchester have collected only eight bonus points – four for scoring four tries or more and four for losing by seven points or less – making them the fourth lowest bonus points scorers in the Division, contrary to last season when they were the highest with 16, including 12 try bonus points.

However, with the future in view, DAVE BALDWIN is assembling an experienced squad which will be out to make things difficult for Moseley in their last game of the season.

Tough 'un
Launceston gave Moseley a tough time last week – especially early on when their pack matched Moseley’s for a spell with Moseley perhaps over-anxious. However, in their last move before the interval, Moseley se3cured their try-bonus point and then they scored three more tries at regular intervals to thwart a fight-back.

Record breaker…

NATHAN BRESSINGTON scored three tries to bring his total to 20, beating JAMES ASTON’S club League try-scoring record in a season of 18. His 36 tries in a League career at Moseley breaks DARRAGH O’MAHONY’S career record of 32.

Aiming high
There is no doubt that a more relaxed Moseley will want to end their season on a high, but Manchester, like all the clubs this season, will be keen to shoot them down.

A squad that has gained in experience having in the main been together over the last two seasons, will no doubt provide dogged resistance. And this is where we pay tribute to coaches IAN SMITH and DON CASKIE who have kept the Moseley squad focussed all season and, coupled with their expertise and that of the medical staff, have seen the players through the difficult spells producing a remarkable se4ason of consistency of performance and results.

Enjoy!
To those travelling to Grove Park, enjoy the day, and to those readers of the Big Match Preview who have completed the course, thank you for your support. It’s been a pleasure to write of such an enjoyable season.

There will be much going on at Billesley on and off the field during the close season, including preparing to face yet another new challenge for the Club, back in National Division One after three seasons. Have a great Summer!

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