It’s a pleasure to welcome one of the oldest clubs, Exeter Chiefs, to
Billesley on Saturday. Exeter was founded in 1872, a year before Moseley,
but it is only in recent years of League and Cup rugby that they have had
Exeter reached the 2nd round of the RFU Cup Competition in its first two
years, 1971-3, did not qualify in the next three seasons, reached the fourth
round twice, 1973-83, did not qualify for three seasons 1983-86, and in
1987-88, but, since, they have qualified every season, reaching the
quarter-final in 1992-3 and 1994-5, and the sixth round in 2002-3.
Last season they reached the semi-final of the
Powergen National Trophy before losing 35-37 at the County Ground to
Bedford. Last week, fielding a strong side, they defeated Lydney 47-3 in the
quarter-final of the EDF Energy National Trophy to again reach the
semi-final and will now meet Birmingham and Solihull.
In addition, they have twice reached the final of the Powergen Challenge
Shield, the one-time cup for the last four non-Premiership sides left in the
RFU Senior Cup, providing they hadn't reached the semi-finals. In 2001-2
they lost 26-35 to Rotherham in the Shield at Twickenham. In the following
season, they lost in the final 20-26 to Orrell.
Fixtures between Exeter and Moseley began in 1925 and visits to Exeter in
Moseley’s annual Easter Tour were most enjoyable playing and social affairs.
The two clubs met in the John Player Cup in 1981, Moseley winning 15-7 at a
wet County Ground in the fourth round. The weather also played its part in
another visit to Exeter in 1996. Moseley were desperate to play a match to
prepare for important League games ahead, but, with five inches of snow on
The Reddings and the ground hard underneath, they needed to travel to better
climes for a game.
It was Exeter who were kind enough to arrange a club game at very short
notice, but torrential rain prevented the game being played at the County
Ground, so the game was played at a nearby school. Adapting to the
conditions and the narrowness of the pitch better, Exeter won 22-7. Exeter
went on to win National Four South, but Moseley did not benefit much from
their zeal as they went on to lose seven of their last eight games, but
Exeter won promotion again in 1996-7 to Premiership Two, so Exeter and
Moseley first met in League rugby on 27th September 1997, Moseley winning
23-22 at The Reddings and 20-10 at the County Ground. Exeter did the double
in the next season and in the following season. Exeter were Moseley’s first
opponents at the University of Birmingham and Moseley celebrated, winning
27-18 – only their third League win against the Chiefs since they first met.
They have not beaten Exeter since, losing the last six games.
However, except for Exeter’s 73-0 win at the County Ground in Moseley’s
relegation season in 2002-3, matches have been closely contested with only
fifty-seven points between the teams in the other eleven games between the
two clubs up to 2003.
Exeter has moved this season from the County Ground, the club’s home
since1893, to Sandy Park, a purpose-built stadium to meet the criteria of
the Premier League.
In the first match at Sandy Park on 16th September 2006, before a crowd of
5,234, the Chiefs drew 13-13 with Coventry, which was the last side to play
at the Racecourse when the Chiefs won 45-5. However, the Chiefs won their
next home match in the following week against Earth Titans, serious
promotion contenders, 29-22.
Moseley were the next team to play at Sandy Park, losing 34-16. Moseley
missed chances early on, but were torn apart by the Exeter centre
partnership of MARK and JUNIOR FATIALOFA. MARK scored one of Exeter’s tries
with hooker SAM BLYTHE, replacement hooker SIMON JENKINS, winger GARY
KINGDOM and ADAM STANIFORTH, playing in place of TONY YAPP, scoring their
other tries, STANIFORTH converting three and kicking a penalty. Moseley
replied through OLIE THOMAS, three penalties and a conversion of a try by
ANDY BINNS, made after a break by THOMAS in front of a crowd of 2,000.
In their nine seasons to date in the Division immediately below the
Premiership, Exeter have finished third in three consecutive seasons 2000-03
and 2nd in 2004-5, behind Bristol.
In the seasons 1987-97, Exeter’s leading scorer was fly-half ANDY GREEN, who
scored 1,085 points in the eight seasons he played, 300 points in his last
TONY YAPP, ex-Worcester, in his career to date from 2002, beat GREEN’S
career record last season, scoring 1,112 points, plus 189 points scored in
the League to date this season. Back row player RICHARD BAXTER is the
leading career try scorer with 71 to the end of last season. And is still
Exeter’s new Director of Rugby is the former England under-21 coach PETER
DREWETT, succeeding IAN BREMNER. He is assisted by ROB BAXTER, 275
appearances for Exeter in his career, fitness coach PADDY ANSON, DAVE MACK,
physio JOHN MOORE and doctor ADRIAN HARRIS, a strong back-room group. They
will be working on JUNIOR FATIALOFA’s broken hand, not expected to be fit on
Saturday – to some extent to Moseley’s relief, though he is likely to be
replaced by ex-Cornish Pirate’s centre WADE KELLY, who scored two tries
against Lydney last Saturday.
Exeter have kept faith with most of last season’s players that finished
sixth in National One last season. Newcomers include the aforementioned WADE
KELLY, winger/full-back BEN BREEZE, signed from Newport Gwent Dragons, and
lock OLLIE HODGE, from Bristol. RICHARD BAXTER, flanker GARY WILLIS, wing
GARY KINGDOM, hooker SAM BLYTHE, TONY YAPP and lock KEN BROWN played in the
game against Moseley in April 2003 and could be in Saturday’s team, as could
Moseley’s ANDY BINNS, BEN BUXTON, ALEX HADLEY, PAUL COLES and CARL COLVIN,
who played in April 2003 and are regular members of the 1st XV squad. JASON
LUFF is the Chief’s top try scorer to date this season with ten.
Moseley will be without that inveterate helicopter traveller MARK EVANS,
whose injury sustained against Leeds Tykes in the last match, is fortunately
not as serious as was first thought. ANDY REAY, back with the club on loan
for the season from Bristol, will add strength to the backs.
The players will be refreshed after their improved display in the hard game
against Leeds Tykes, but must be ready to play at their top level against
Exeter lying sixth in National One and unbeaten for nine League games.
Definitely promotion candidates for next season.
If Moseley can rise to the occasion, Saturday’s game will be a good one for
spectators of both sides, especially for Moseley, desperate to win points in
the relegation struggle. We hope you all enjoy the camaraderie generated in
the clubhouse and hospitality boxes at Billesley – whatever the result.