BIG MATCH PREVIEW - Blackheath
BIG MATCH PREVIEW by Peter Woodroofe
Moseley V Orrell, National League 2, at Billesley, Saturday, 25 March, 3.00pm
It’s not long ago, the 4th February, that Moseley travelled to Edge Hall Road. Orrell were bottom of National 2, seven points behind 13th places Harrogate, after being defeated by them at Claro Road by a surprising 29-3 margin the previous week in what was a vital relegation game.
In view of that, they showed great spirit and resilience after Moseley had secured the try bonus point by half-time. They even scored a try by centre ALAN CROSS after Moseley had dropped the ball on their own line, converted by the former Irish international full-back playing at fly-half SIMON MASON, who had also kicked a penalty in the first minute.
It could be said that Moseley went off the boil in the second half, but none-the-less Orrell took advantage and played great rugby. Hooker PAUL MILLEA pounced on a loose ball to score a try in the 46th minute, converted by Mason, and another handling error led to a try by WARREN SPRAGG, an England Counties player who in a breakaway dribbled over after good work by full-back CHRIS GLYNN.
OLLIE THOMAS maintained a comfort zone for Moseley with two penalties in the 50th and 72nd minutes to complete a 100% kicking record. Nevertheless, Orrell won the second half 12-6 in a 22-37 final score.
Orrell were founded in 1927 and achieved senior status very quickly, reaching the semi-final of the RFU Senior Cup in 1973-4. Winger JOHN CARLETON, with 26 caps 1979-84 is their best-known international player.
They commenced League rugby in 1987-88 in League One (with Moseley) and stayed there for 10 seasons before relegation to Premiership 2 in 1996-7.
They were relegated in 2000-01 and won promotion back to National One in the following season with the arrival of the Wigan Warriors Chairman MAURICE LINDSAY and the owner of JJB Sports, DAVID WHELAN, intent on going into rugby union and guiding Orrell to the Premiership.
However, the revival was short-lived, lasting two seasons in which Orrell finished 4th and 2nd before 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 had to be abandoned.
Players who were influential in the period of promotion from National 2 and the next two seasons included PHIL JONES, recruited from Wigan Warriors, who scored a club career League record 689 points in two seasons, 2001-3, winger ANDY CRAIG, who became a Scottish international, a club career record of 43 tries in three seasons, winger NEIL KERFOOT, now with Waterloo, who scored 19 tries in 2001-2 and WES DAVIES, 16 in 2002-3.
Former Moseley favourite LEIGH HINTON scored 313 points, including a new club record of 23 tries in a season in his one season there, 2002-3.
At the end of 2003-4, after the departure of Lindsay and Whelan, there was an exodus of players, similar to the end of 2000-01.
With Sale Sharks and England Counties Coach MACK NELSON and SIMON MASON returning to the club, there was not enough time to put together a meaningful squad in a very competitive League so that Orrell, with Henley Hawks, were relegated having won just two games and drawn one.
Mason was the leading points scorer with 106 and winger OLIVER VINEY and centre CHRIS BRIERS were the leading try scorers with five.
Before this season’s meeting between the two clubs, they last played each other in 2002-3, when Orrell were on the crest of the wave and Moseley were relegated. Orrell won both games, 57-6 at Edge Hall Road and 52-18 at Bournbrook, the aforementioned Phil Jones, who represented England against the Barbarians in his first season in ‘Union’, scored a total of 39 points in the two games.
Since then, both clubs have been through various experiences connected with professionalism, but it is interesting to note that no players are left at Orrell who played in those last two games, whereas there are 11 players in the current Moseley squad who played in at least one of the two games. Moseley are grateful for those players’ loyalty. They have got their reward, after the club finished 10th in National 2 in 2003-4 and third last season.
SIMON MASON is now the full-time Rugby Director of a club returning to traditional values. He has scored 125 points to date.
Of those players who have chosen to stay, England Counties winger WARREN SPRAGG has scored 11 of Orrell’s 23 tries in a season that the squad has found difficult. Just five wins in 20 games, all at home, against Barking 19-10, Harrogate 32-29, Wharfedale 28-27, Redruth 34-7 and Halifax 22-18.
They have two try bonus points, against Harrogate and Redruth, and three for losing by seven points or less, at Redruth 13-10 and Henley 26-20, and at home to Manchester 13-16.
New players this season include HENWOOD from West Park, full-back CHRIS GLYNN, prop MATT COLLIE and flanker DAN HALL from Sedgley Park, locks JAKE LYON from Caldy and RICHARD BRADSHAW from New Brighton. They join the likes of winger ADAM ROBSON, CHRIS BRIERS, centre SEAN REAY, hooker NEIL DOVERIDGE and others from the peripatetic movers on the Northern circuit and young players on the way up.
So it’s a warm welcome on Saturday to Orrell as they endeavour to fight their way back as a club and in performance. But not a game to take lightly as they will be buoyed by two successive wins. They will also be encouraged by the RFU’s decision last week to increase National 1 to sixteen teams next season, achieved by having no relegation from that division and with the knock-on effect that only one team will now be relegated from National 2, rather than three. It gives a better lifeline to bottom-placed Orrell who are some five points – a bonus point win – behind Harrogate and safety. Take note Moseley – charity should not begin at home!
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