BIG MATCH PREVIEW - EXETER

 

by PETER WOODROOFE


MOSELEY v EXETER, National League 1, on Saturday, March 10, 2007 at Billesley, Kick-off 3.00 PM - but come for lunch!
 


Old club
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 consistent success.

Cup highs
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.

Easter memories
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.

Encounters
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 finished sixth.

Upwardly mobile
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.

Close encounters
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.

New stadium
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.

Power play
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.

High achievers
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.

Points machines
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 season.
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 going strong.

Coaching pedigree
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.

Stable squad
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.

Focus needed
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.

Enjoy!
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.
 

 

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