MOSELEY v BEDFORD, National League Division 1, at Billesley,

Saturday, September 9, 2006, KO 3pm (but come for lunch )

One of the pleasures of welcoming Bedford Blues to Billesley is the similarity of the history of the two clubs and that they are meeting in National One despite the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.’ This, in spite of the fact that one club bears the name of a medium-sized town and the other the name of a suburb of the City of Birmingham.

Schoolmate start
Bedford was founded in 1886 from an amalgamation of Bedford Rovers, founded in 1876, and Bedford Swifts, in 1882.

Both clubs had associations with Bedford’s two public schools, Bedford and Bedford Modern, and the club’s colours of dark and light blue are said to be a reflection of the connection of schoolmasters with Oxbridge.

In the build-up of their history, Bedford played and defeated such teams as Stade Francais and the Barbarians and in 1905 played the first All-Black touring side.

Moseley played and defeated the first-ever touring side, The Maoris 6-4 in 1888. The Racing Club of Paris were popular visitors to The Reddings in 1912. It was not until Moseley’s Centenary celebrations, however, that the Barbarians played Moseley on 27 March, 1974.

War hiatus
Both clubs survived the two World Wars, Moseley losing their ground in both wars and Bedford’s ground being used as an Army Camp in 1914-18. In 1939-45, Bedford had strong rugby links with the RAF.

Bedford had always had an association with the Public Schools and Universities, but it was in the 1930s that, in order to strengthen the club’s poor playing strength, Moseley developed links with the Public Schools. These bore fruit with such players as GROSVENOR WILLIAMS, an England trialist in 1935, DONALD PERRY, LLOYD ROBINSON and T.J. GAVIN (Monsignor Tom), who was to be capped for Ireland in 1949.

Another, who would surely have won a full England cap but for the Second World War, was Bromsgrove schoolboy, winger E.J.H. (ELLIS) WILLIAMS. He played for
Moseley, The Army and Cambridge University and represented England in the Services Internationals four times, three times in 1942 and once in 1943. He won his Blue in 1946 and was awarded War-Time Colours in 1939 and 1940.

Thirty-two Bedford players have won international honours while playing for the club, including D.P. (BUDGE) ROGERS, an openside wing forward who won 34 England caps, 1961-1969. He also played twice for the British Lions and became a rugby administrator.

Thirty-three players have won international caps while playing for Moseley

In the RFU Senior Cup Competition, Bedford were the winners in 1974-5, while Moseley have been joint winners once and runners-up twice.

Courage Clubs Championship
At the start of the Courage Clubs Championship in 1987-88, Moseley were in Division 1 and Bedford in Division 2, as a result of their positions in the John Smiths Merit Table and the Midlands Merit Table.

Bedford soon won promotion to the top League and the first League meeting between the two clubs was on November 25, 1989, Moseley winning 24-0 at Goldington Road, when Peter Shillingford and Bob Barr’s back-row skills caused havoc in the Bedford ranks.

Both clubs suffered relegation and met each other again in 1991-2 when Moseley won 9-8 at Goldington Road and in the following season the two clubs drew 9-9 at The Reddings.

That was the ‘season of the long knives’ when League reorganisation determined that only the top six would survive in National 2. Bedford were decidedly unlucky, finishing 7th, just below Moseley lying 6th with the same number of points, but with a +31 points difference. Moseley had to win their last three games to survive

The clubs met again in the 1995-6 season, Moseley doing the double and Bedford avoiding relegation because of another League reorganisation.

Professional jolt
Moseley were unprepared for the start of the first season of professionalism in 1996-7 and lost 64-9, Bedford scoring 10 tries, but in the return game Moseley had improved enough to win 40-34 at The Reddings.

In the following season, Bedford won promotion to Division One after the boxing promoter Frank Warren and Sports Network had invested in the club. However, Moseley’s ambition came to an end in January 1988 and they lost twice to Bedford in the 1997-8 season.

After financial problems, Sports Network sold the club to Jefferson Lloyd International. This proved to be a financial disaster and the club was very close to moving from the town. Relegation to National One followed in 1999-2000.

Following intervention from the RFU, a consortium of Bedford businessmen, plus the Borough Council, rescued the club and the transfer of the club to Bedford Blues Ltd came about, with supporters and businessmen buying shares and making the club, as it is now, a viable unit.

All of which illustrates the similarity of the history of the two clubs over the years.

New Millennium
In 2000-01, the two clubs met again, both sides winning at home and with Moseley finishing 10th and Bedford 11th.

In the following season came arguably the finest encounter between the two clubs, Moseley winning 46-45 at Bournbrook, with LEIGH HINTON kicking the winning penalty in injury time. The return game at Goldington Road was another high-scoring game, Bedford winning 36-25.

In 2004-5, HINTON, after moving to Bedford, was their leading points scorer with 347, 27 points short of JAMES PRITCHARD’S club League record in 2002-3, which was the season the Blues did the double over Moseley, who were relegated to National 2.

League record overall
The two clubs have met 16 times in the League, with Moseley winning seven, Bedford eight and one drawn. Moseley 333pts, Bedford 434.

And so to Saturday’s game…
Bedford finished runners-up to NEC Harlequins in National One last season, finishing 10 points in front of Cornish Pirates.

Their points total of 906 included 120 tries, the second-highest in the Division, many members of the squad contributing to that count as the top try scorer was ALI HEPHER with just nine.

JAMES HINKINS, who had a spell with Moseley, scored seven.

Fly-half HEPHER has retired to run Northampton Academy and is replaced by ROSS BROADFOOT, from Leicester.

The aforementioned JAMES PRITCHARD has returned to the club from Plymouth Albion and Northampton. The East Midlands link between Leicester, Northampton and Bedford has been beneficial to all clubs as Bedford include on loan sons of former players PAUL DODGE and NICK YOUNGS, the ex-Bedford scrum-half.

Both OLLIE DODGE and TOM YOUNGS are centres and are being seconded to Bedford for a year, monitored by ANDY KEY, who is the Leicester Academy manager and Bedford backs coach.

Last Saturday, an injury-time try by DODGE, converted by BROADFOOT, gave Bedford a 29-29 draw with the much-changed Pertemps Bees at Goldington Road, a result with which the Blues will no doubt be disappointed. Beware of a backlash on Saturday!

Take pride
No need for Moseley to feel discouraged by Saturday’s result against Earth Titans. They will hope, as we all will, that the weather does not play as significant a part and calmer conditions prevail.

Moseley will hope winger NATHAN BRESSINGTON will be fit enough to play and MARK EVANS can return to a pack that did very well in the circumstances, especially when it succeeded in turning the Titans’ pack and reversing the put-in. There was also the 20-minute spell against the wind in the second half of resilient defence under severe pressure.

It will be interesting fare for supporters of both clubs on Saturday. It will also be good to meet up with Bedford once again on the field and socially in the clubhouse before and after the game, where a warm welcome awaits everyone.


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