BIG MATCH PREVIEW by Peter Woodroofe

Orrell v Moseley - National League 2, at Edge Hall Road, Saturday, 4 February, 2.00pm.

Rapid rise
Orrell RUFC was founded in 1927 and achieved senior status very quickly, reaching the semi-final of the RFU Senior Cup in 1973-4, losing 3-12 to London Scottish, and the quarter-finals in 1972-3.
Consistency in the Northern Merit Table placed them in National League One at the start of the Courage Clubs Championship, where they stayed for 10 seasons before relegation to National 2 in 1997-8.
Star players
Their current full-time Director of Rugby SIMON MASON was Orrell’s leading scorer in 1995-6 with 166 points, including four tries. He went on to join Richmond at the start of the professional era and won three Irish international caps in 1996.
Other internationals who have won caps while at Orrell include, JOHN CARLETON, 26 caps 1979-84, FRAN CLOUGH, PETER WILLIAMS, DAVE CUSANI and FRANK ANDERSON.
They spent four seasons in the League below the top level before relegation in 2000-01. They achieved immediate promotion back to National One with the arrival of the Wigan Warriors Chairman MAURICE LINDSAY and the owner of ‘JJB Sports’ DAVID WHELAN, intent in going into rugby union and guiding Orrell to the Premiership.
They rescued the club after no more than four players reported for training after relegation in July 2001 and with a run of 19 consecutive League wins from the 10th November ’01 to the end of the season, they won the League on points difference from Plymouth Albion.
PHIL JONES, who was recruited from Wigan Warriors, scored a club League record 343 points, while ANDY CRAIG, later to become a Scottish international and NEIL KERFOOT, now with Waterloo, both scored a record 19 tries.
Australian centre WADE KELLY and locks CHRIS BENTLEY and CHARLES CUSANI were other influential players. Jones went on to play for the full England side against the Barbarians at Twickenham to complete his first season in ‘Union’.
Two strong finishes
Orrell finished 4th in National One in the following season under Australian coach ROSS REYNOLDS with Jones scoring a record 346 points and utility back WES DAVIES 16 tries to add to his 13 the previous season and ANDY CRAIG 15.
In 2003-4 they finished runners-up to Worcester who were undefeated with a 100% record. They defeated Orrell 40-14 at Six Ways in September and 15-7 at Edge Hill Road. Orrell lost only two other games.
PHIL JONES had left Orrell for Rotherham, but in his stead was signed the former Moseley favourite LEIGH HINTON from Birmingham & Solihull before they became Pertemps Bees. He himself scored 313 points, including a new club record 23 tries and flanker NICK EASTER, who had been recruited in October 2002 from Rosslyn Park, scored 13 tries.
At the end of the season 2003-4, Orrell were looking optimistically at the Premiership, but Dave Whelan decided to withdraw his financial support. A former Blackburn Rovers player, he decided to invest in soccer – Wigan Athletic – so thoughts of Premiership rugby and playing at the JJB Stadium went out of the window.
Once again there was an exit of players and Orrell had to start virtually from scratch. The assistant coach of Sale Sharks and England Counties coach MARK NELSON took over and assembled a squad at short notice, but in a competitive League there was not enough time and Orrell were relegated with Henley Hawks, having only won two and drawn one game.
New clubhouse / members club
One moment of pleasure for the Orrell faithful was the opening of the new clubhouse at Edge Hall Road after a disastrous fire in 2002. They had soldiered through this loss with the commendable resolution shown at the end of 2000-1 and 2003-4
SIMON MASON returned to the club at the start of last season and was leading points scorer with 106. Leading try scorers were winger OLIVER VINEY and centre CHRIS BRIERS with five apiece. Mason was appointed full-time Director of Rugby with the task of re-establishing the club, which has reverted to a members’ club.
Club encounters
Up to the end of 1990-91, when Moseley were relegated from Division One, the two clubs had met on four occasions, Orrell winning three and Moseley one.
League matches were resumed in 1997-8 after Orrell’s relegation from Division One. For the following two seasons, honours were even, both clubs winning on their own ground, but in 1999-2000 Moseley did the double in the season Orrell were relegated to National 2. When the two clubs met again in 2002-3, the season when Orrell were on the crest of a wave and Moseley were relegated, Orrell won 57-6 at Edge Hall Road and 52-18 at Bournbrook.
The aforementioned Phil Jones scored 39 points in the two games, WES DAVIES three tries and the Samoan scrum-half STEVE SO’OILAO also three tries. With the clubhouse decimated by the fire, Moseley were splendidly entertained at the St James Social Club just up the road.
That was the last time the two clubs met. Since then, both clubs have been through various experiences connected with professionalism in our sport. It is interesting, however, to note that no players are left at Orrell who played in those two games, whereas there are 11 players in the Moseley squad who played in at least one of the games earning a reward for loyalty and endeavour in terms of results in this and last season after finishing 10th in National 2 in 2003-4.
Several of Orrell’s squad last season have stayed with the club, joining SIMON MASON. They include WARREN SPRAGG, an England Counties winger, centres CHRIS BRIERS and SEAN REAY, winger ADAM ROBSON and hooker NEIL DOWDRIDGE.
Newcomers this season include full-back CHRIS GLYNN, prop MATT COLLIE and flanker DON HALL from Sedgley Park, flanker MATT HENWOOD from West Park, locks JAKE LYON from Caldy and RICHARD BRADSHAW from New Brighton, plus others from the peripatetic movers on the Northern circuit.
Tough times
The young Orrell squad is finding it difficult in National 2this season with three wins from 15 games, all at home, against Barking 19-10, Harrogate 32-29 and Wharfedale 28-27. They have won one 4-try bonus point against Harrogate, and two points for losing by seven points or less, at Redruth 13-10 and at home to Manchester 13-16.
Their heaviest defeats have been at Esher and Waterloo. Their leading try scorer this season is winger WARREN SPRAGG with nine, while No 8 MATT HENWOOD has scored three and centre CHRIS BRIERS three. They are the lowest try scorers in National 2 with 20. SIMON MASON has scored 90 points.
After the cliff-hanger against Waterloo a fortnight ago, Moseley cleared a stiff hurdle at Wharfedale in another exciting encounter. Down to 13 men after 38 minutes through yellow cards, Moseley are full of steel these days and led 35-20 after 69 minutes, but a spirited fightback saw Dale score a converted try and a penalty to give Moseley a scare.
Focus needed
Form suggests Moseley will have a more comfortable game at Orrell, but nothing should be taken for granted. Orrell have shown their best form at Edge Hall Road with wins – notably over Wharfedale and Barking.
But it will be incentive enough for Moseley that a win will put them top of National 2. Esher, also with a game in hand over Waterloo, are at home to Blackheath and are currently two points behind Moseley, so a bonus point would be very handy for Mose. Again, all to play for on Saturday!
Directions to Orrell
Come off the M6 at junction 26 which is the M58 motorway junction and follow the signs to Wigan. From the roundabout you go uphill to a T junction. Turn left following the signs to Orrell and Skelmersdale. You pass a Premier Lodge on the right just after you pass over the motorway.
Travel straight on to the next traffic lights which has a post office on the left and the Stag Inn on the right hand opposite corner. At this junction, Turn Left in to Moor Lane.
Passing over another motorway bridge and a car sales depot on the left you come to a mini roundabout, carry straight on at this until you reach the traffic lights. There is a sign post here for Orrell RUFC, turn left at these lights in to Church Street and travel for approximately 1(?) mile.
Turn left on to Edge Hall Road which is on the left hand side, opposite the disused railway station and immediately before the railway bridge. The ground's entrance is 75 yards on the left.
Car Parking
There is limited parking at the ground so make sure you come early. There are a number of spaces for Blue Badge Holders by the club house. Please advise the stewards on the gate if you are a badge holder and they will direct you to the appropriate location.


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