BIG MATCH PREVIEW by Peter Woodroofe

Moseley v Waterloo, National League 2, at Billesley, Saturday, 21 January, 3.00pm

It certainly is a Big match at Billesley on Saturday, a veritable treat for supporters of both sides, the newcomers and the uncommitted.

The history of both clubs, Moseley founded in 1873, Waterloo in 1882, is similar. Both have struggled because of their suburban roots in the professional era of the game. Moseley lost their ground of 120 years because of debt and Waterloo was obliged to sell part of theirs at Blundellsands to survive.

Both are clubs with great traditions that obliged them to compete in the mad world of professionalism with disastrous results. But it was those traditions that have provided the basis and the will to survive and both are now upwardly mobile.

Grooming stars
Both clubs started the Courage Clubs Championship in the top Division in 1987-88. Waterloo lasted two seasons before relegation to Division 2 and Moseley last four. Waterloo then spent 12 seasons at the second level before relegation to National 2, level 3. During that period PAUL GRAYSON, AUSTIN HEALEY and BEN KAY represented the club before achieving international honours elsewhere.

Tough times
Their current Director of Rugby IAN AITCHISON played for Waterloo in their first season of League rugby. There followed a lean period when immediately after relegation to National 2 they went down to National 3 North in 2001-2. After finishing 3rd, they won promotion back to National 2 in the next season.

Moseley spent 12 seasons in the Division immediately below the top before being relegated to National 2 in 2003-4. After a difficult season in which they finished 10th, Moseley finished 3rd last season with a promoted Waterloo 4th, 12 points behind.

Incidentally, during their spell in National 3 North, Waterloo defeated Moseley twice in the Powergen Cup, once at Blundellsands and once at Bournbrook.

Last season
The two teams resumed activities in the League last season when Moseley did the double, winning 25-24 at Blundellsands and 29-25 in the last game at Bournbrook.

In this season’s game last September, Moseley inflicted on Waterloo their first defeat of the season, 37-31 in yet another closely contested game between the two clubs. After Moseley had led 37-17 after 75 minutes, Waterloo made a spirited recovery, scoring two converted tries and were close to scoring a third in what was an extremely long period of time added on.

Ten minutes was also added to Moseley’s game at Blackheath last Saturday. Good value for spectators but, with Moseley struggling to hold on to their lead in both cases, it doesn’t do much for the blood pressure!

In the game at Blundellsands, Moseley’s tries were scored by PAUL COX, NATHAN BRESSINGTON (2) and a penalty try. OLLIE THOMAS scored 17 points, four conversions and three penalties. NEIL KERFOOT, Waterloo’s leading try scorer last season with 23, a club season League record, scored two tries and centre FREEMAN PAYNE, holder of the club’s try-scoring record in a career (65) and No * DAVID BLYTH, holder of the club record for appearances by a forward (220), one apiece.

This season’s leading points scorer for Waterloo, NAIL HUNTER, converted all four tries and kicked a penalty.

Newcomers to Waterloo this season include two props, MARTIN O’KEEFE, from Pertemps Bees, and South African tight-head prop SHAUN REWERS.

Recently acquired on loan are centre JASON DUFFY, and lock or backrow BEN LLOYD from their coach PHIL WINSTANLEY’S former club Sale.

Moseley connection
STEPHEN NUTT, who first played for Moseley in Mini Rugby and was Moseley’s leading points scorer in League rugby in 2002-3, when they were in National One, joined Waterloo last season and was also their leading points scorer. Divided loyalties there? No not really, family must prevail, but there are two parents who would love to see both clubs promoted!

Going strong
Mention should also be made of fly-half TONY HANDLEY, still playing 1st team this season, who has scored a club League record of over 900 points in over 220 appearances since making his debut in 1992.

Try kings
Waterloo are the leading try scorers in National 2 with 58, spread amongst 15 players. The leading scorers are winger NEIL KERFOOT. 9, utility back CRAIG AIKMAN, 8, centre FREEMAN PAYNE, 8, and prop MARTIN O’KEEFE, 6. NEIL HUNTER has scored 167 points.

Moseley’s leading try scorers are hooker DEAN BICK, with 10 and winger NATHAN BRESSINGTON, WITH 8. In spite of scoring only four points at Blackheath last Saturday, OLLIE THOMAS is still National 2’s leading points scorer with 175.

So the scene is set for Saturday’s encounter of the more intense kind. Similarities between the two clubs abound and there’s nothing to choose between the two clubs on current form. It seems it will all depend on how the squads cope with the pressure of the occasion.

Home advantage could be the key, so let’s hope the Moseley crowd support, so good in the past at the moment of truth, will rise to the occasion. It cannot raise the roof – there isn’t one – but, put it like this, no one should be allowed to sleep in the environs of Billesley next Saturday afternoon!


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