Moseley captain Gareth Taylor
continued his remarkable run of unbroken appearances this season – he has not
missed any of the last 90 games – which means he not only inspired his team to
National Two glory, he was there every step of the way.
Here, he takes a look back at one of the most enjoyable campaigns in the club’s
history and with Rugby Correspondent Brian Dick recalls the highs and the lows
of eight memorable months.
From beginning a new era at Billesley Common to drinking Esher’s champagne and
lifting the championship trophy, Taylor gives his unique perspective linking the
Moseley forwards and backs.
Starting the season at Billesley Common was a massive boost for the club and
credit to everyone behind the scenes.
Winning our first match against Manchester and getting the bonus point in the
last few minutes was just the start we were looking for.
That was good but the biggest thing that month was beating Stourbridge away in
our second game.
Everyone had written us off with the way we had played there in the last three
years and it didn’t help when we lost Richard Stott the week before.
But Tom Skelding came in and everybody played well on a horrible day. It was the
first time in about two or three years that our forwards stood up and showed
themselves to be the best in the league.
After beating Blackheath we went up to Waterloo and at the time it didn’t feel
as though it was any more important than another game but ultimately the points
we got up there won us the title.
As the match wore on and they came right back at us it became clear how good the
two sides were.
We had lost at Esher in each of the last three seasons so going there again was
our biggest game so far because they knew that if they beat us it would put them
in the driving seat.
Although we didn’t play that badly they beat us but afterwards in the bar they
drank Moet until it was coming out of their ears.
Our lads wondered what they thought they were doing because they hadn’t won
anything yet. If we’d have won we wouldn’t’ have reacted that way.
They gave us a bottle of champagne which Stottman kept until the end of the
season. We drank it seven months later after we beat Launceston. That was sweet.
The toughest games are often the ones after you’ve played a big match so
although Harrogate were struggling when we beat them after losing at Esher it
set us up nicely for November.
The occasion that sticks out for me was the Earth Titans cup game. It was a
Friday night and the first time we had a really, really big crowd all season.
The atmosphere was superb.
Although we lost they were fifth or sixth in National One and it showed we could
compete with the top sides in the country.
There was a cross field kick we should have scored from and afterwards Ian
[Smith] and Don [Caskie] would say we were quite unlucky that day.
If we played them the following week and the week after that I am confident we
would have won because we would get on a roll of National One sides.
A fortnight before that we had gone down to Redruth which after the Esher loss
was a massive test of character for us.
All season Ian Smith would pin press cuttings in the dressing room and that day
there were a couple from down there wondering if Moseley would perform and
saying it was a good time to play us.
We won 26-19 and the only disappointing thing was we didn’t get a bonus point.
John Beale was very angry about that.
In years gone by December has not been a good month for us and once more there
were low moments but some real high ones too – it was a real month of contrast.
I don’t even want to think about the Halifax game, we won but we didn’t play.
Then the next week we came up against Barking who were on a good run and
threatening to break into the top three.
But we had Jimmy Aston and Neil Bayliss back for the first time for several
months and seeing names like that in the programme helped the boys in a big way.
We gave them a real beating and afterwards I had to make a speech where all I
could say was that they caught us on a very, very good day. Looking back it was
probably our best performance of the season.
The next week Launceston away was totally different. We just did not perform and
they were right up for it.
They targeted Waggy [Neil Mason] but we did not do anything about it and we
should have. It was disappointing the way they acted, they were not the nicest
bunch of blokes and I think they will regret the way they were now.
But on reflection going down there was the best thing that could have happened
to us because a lot of players had a long hard look at themselves over
Andy Binns came back and Andy Reay came into the team, that was a big plus for
us after everyone had a week and a half off and came back fresh.
Starting with Stourbridge at home could not have been better, beating them as we
did really showed we were going somewhere. We destroyed them.
Our next home game after that against Waterloo was immense. To win with 14 men
was fantastic. It was the first time I had ever congratulated a crowd at Moseley
but they really helped us.
The feeling at the end of the game, having held on like we did, was the best all
season, even better than getting promoted and beating Esher. It topped
We did well in the first half but when we had a man sent off we went into the
changing rooms and talked calmly about what we had to do.
Speaking to their lads afterwards they could not believe they hadn’t won that
game. The delight on our faces and the dejection on theirs was something to
behold. It made it even more enjoyable.
Although we won at Orrell it was a hard match for us because we lost Jimmy Aston
for the season.
He had come back in before Christmas, scored tries and begun to look the player
he was a season and a half ago. We were devastated for him.
Following that we had the Tuesday off and came together on the Wednesday and
Thursday before the visit from Esher. There was no way we were going to lose
Scoring four tries in the first half was amazing. On that day no one would have
beaten us, if it had been Waterloo we’d have killed them, if it had been
Rotherham we’d have beaten them too.
After this game I began talking about the focus of the team because we were in
the box seat.
Having beaten Waterloo twice and Esher at home, the guys felt they deserved to
win the league. It was ours to lose now.
Coming off the massive Waterloo and Esher games we put in one of our worst
performances of the season at home to Redruth.
We had a week away from the club after Esher and although we needed it, it was
very difficult getting back into the grove.
Dai Hallmen said having seen the photos on the website of the Waterloo game
where our faces showed how much we wanted it, the pictures of Redruth showed
that we just did not want to be out there. We managed to scrape through.
After another free weekend we went to Henley and everyone was thinking about
promotion and how it was there for the taking.
Every time you turned the telly on you’d see Waterloo had picked up five points
so by this stage we knew we had to keep winning but we also had to turn in
performances as Ian had said all year. Doing both was hard work.
After winning at Henley we outclassed Orrell and once more we sustained a
serious injury, this time to Dai Hallmen.
There were matches like Halifax and Launceston coming up, games in which he
would have been in his element. We were a little bit low after that happened
because he had been a key player in our pack.
The way we got promoted at Halifax was fantastic, it would have been nice to do
it in front of our own fans but you take it anywhere it comes.
But running on the pitch before the Launceston game took our breath away. As we
came out Andy Reay said we should try and soak it up because it wasn’t going to
be there forever.
I probably will never be promoted
with Moseley again, I dearly hope I am, so I knew I had to enjoy every second of
it. The way we played that wasn’t difficult.
They were a shadow of the side that beat us in December and we showed them how
we could play, backs and forwards, by controlling the game from start to finish.
We were hell bent on winning the title that day so everyone played out of their
After the game was brilliant. Sitting outside drinking the Esher champagne
having won something was something I will never forget.
It was nice to see the likes of Alex Hadley, Paul Coles and Dean Bick – guys who
had been there when Moseley were relegated, take the club back up again.
Ian Smith's view
In virtually every detail the
Moseley Ian Smith and Don Caskie joined two years ago is different from the club
they take into. National One next season.
Admittedly the faces, and team colours, have remained the same - half of
the side that lost the club's last First Division match in April 2003 played in
the current campaign - but that's about all.
When the pair arrived from Cheltenham a year after that defeat to Exeter,Moseley
were living an itinerant lifestyle as tenants at the University ofBirmingham,
oscillating between anonymity and ignominy and were in realdanger of slipping
further down the rugby pyramid.
Two campaigns later they have regained their former status and are nowsnugly
housed in the rough diamond surroundings of Billesley Common. It has been a
With many of the same players that struggled under their predecessor Steve
Ojo-moh, Smith and Caskie, former team-mates at Gloucester, have overseen a
drastic improvement in first team affairs and now preside over a side brimming
with confidence and ambition.
Moseley have utterly
dominated National Two this season. The two-pointmargin they have at the top of
the table does no justice to their supremacy over their nearest challengers.
They are worthy champions.
They are not the free-spirited runners of 2004-05 but they havenevertheless
taken the title by fitting the style of rugby to the demands of the occasion.
Whatever it's needed, an Ollie Thomas penalty, a Dean Bickpushover or a Nathan
Bressington sprint finish, they have found it.
And that pragmatism is the biggest change in Smith and Caskie's reign:"When we
first came in we brought a fair bit of basic organisation and a bit of
confidence into the group," Smith said.
"After a couple of months they realised how good they could be and expanded too
quickly for their own good, we became very loose.
"But from the start of this season the disorganisation had gone out of our game
and we could concentrate on what we were actually trying to do with our I
"The boys were a lot calmer, the game was better, we made more correct decisions
and they didn't feel as though they had to go out and entertain."
The by-product of which has been the most entertaining season in more than
two decades - not least down to the fact their punters now have their own seats
from which to view the spectacle.
The two facets, new attitude and new ground, have been the main reasons behind
the Moseley renaissance. _ Caskie certainly recognises the impact the move to
Billesley Common has had on the team.
"Before we moved I here the training pitch ' was atrocious," Caskie said."We had
to analyse in a shed, before that we did it in the rain. We stood in a huddle
for half-an-hour, I trained and then went home.
"So when we got Billesley Common we wondered if they were too molly-coddled
but it has made a hell of a difference. "The players have been able to get a
shower, have meals together after training - that has made a massive difference
in the way the team has really bonded.
"They've got a home at last. The last few years have been character building but
there is only so long you can sustain that."
Those hard times, training at Metchley Lane and with nowhere to meet before and
after matches also had a galvanising effect on the club.
The players that were prepared to put up with that stayed, most of them home
products which has inculcated an esprit d'corps that has served them well this
"It's been crucial," admitted Smith. "In the lean years these lads coming
through have kept the club going. I am pretty sure they would have found it
difficult to attract players in those times.
"It is something Don and I are extremely keen on because that is what we
were brought up on. As Gloucester people every little boy and even somegirls
wanted to play for Gloucester. I know it's old fashioned but that's who we are
and I think it works.
"That's why we are hoping to keep all these boys here for next season. I know we
have a bloody tremendous task next season but I am sure a lot of these boys can
take the next step.
"We need to recruit properly and get the right people in, as well as good
players, but this group have started a little bit of history, they have got to
work extremely hard to keep it going but it's crucial the people who come in
While Moseley have moved forward in their time out of National One the rest of
the division has too. First Division teams are better financed, more prepared,
fitter, stronger and faster than ever before.
Which means that for Smith and Caskie next term begins in July: "It's crucial we
get our pre-season right because we don't want to be shocked by the physicality
and intensity of the first few league games. It's important we get up to speed
very quickly," Smith said.
"I am sure a lot of these boys can take the next step."