BIG MATCH PREVIEW -

 

by PETER WOODROOFE


MOSELEY v London Welsh, National Division 1,

Saturday 21 April, kick-off 3pm (but come for lunch!)
 

Warm welcome
The players, officials and supporters of London Welsh have been, and are, most welcome visitors to Moseley. In years gone by, prior to the 1960s when not many of the top Welsh clubs visited Moseley, it was London Welsh that gave the many Welsh exiled in Birmingham the chance to go to The Reddings and get close to their roots and the Land of their Fathers.

Opening up
At the time, London Welsh was a ‘closed’ club, but had to become ‘open’ in 1994 when London Welsh, Scottish and Irish exiles were finding English League rugby difficult because many of their players had returned home to play League rugby, some not being selected for their country if they played in the English Leagues.

Dry times
Moseley and London Welsh first played each other on 21 November, 1925 at The Reddings, the return game taking place a year later at Herne Hill, the home of a famous cycle racing track.

Both The Reddings and Herne Hill were dry - Moseley entertained at The Trafalgar – and the landlords of Herne Hill, Dulwich College, allowed only cups of tea to be served, though real socialising took place at the nearby Half Moon. In both cases, however, club funds suffered.

Cup encounters
The two clubs have met twice in the RFU Senior Cup Competition. In 1976-77, in the quarter-final at The Reddings, Moseley, who were favourites to win the John Player Cup in their Golden Age, could only draw 10-10 and lost on the away teams rule. A try was conceded in the last minute which levelled the score.

A try by RUDI SMITH and two penalties by RICHARD AKENHEAD gave Moseley a 10-6 lead before the final agony, which was made more acute, as earlier, DAVE WARREN was about to score a certain try when he was adjudged to have received a forward pass and was brought back.

Memory keeps pounding in the writer’s mind that an Englishman, W.N. Bennett, played a big part in London Welsh’s win. He actually won seven England caps. There must have been some complicated English-Welsh connection to allow him to play for the Welsh. Anoraks awake!

The two clubs met again in the Pilkington Cup in 1981-2 in Round 4 when Moseley won at The Reddings 25-9 and went on under captain, the Moseley President, DEREK NUTT, to share the Cup with Gloucester, the only tie (12-12) in the Cup’s history.

Hard times
London Welsh started League rugby in 1987-88 in Division Two and, as mentioned, experienced difficult times as the source of exiles dried up as they returned to their roots to play League rugby.

The Welsh dropped to Courage National League Five South, officially became an open club and climbed back gradually up the League structure. They signed fly-half CRAIG RAYMOND in 1994-5 and he scored 109 points in his first six games to clinch promotion.

In 1995-6, they moved to National Two with another promotion, RAYMOND scoring 204 points, beating MIKE HAMLIN’s previous record of League points for the club in a season, 1992-3. HAMLIN had a spell with Moseley in 1993-4.

RAYMOND went on to score 300 points in 1996-7, still a club record, and 264 points in National One in 1997-8. His career record, 1992-99 of 916 points, is still a club record.

League rivalry
In Allied Dunbar Premiership Two on 24 October, 1998, the first League match was played between the two clubs at The Reddings, resulting in a win for the Welsh, 31-16. The return game was close, the Welsh winning 26-24.

In 1999-2000, the Welsh won 24-8 at Old Deer Park, but Moseley won their first League game winning 35-16 at The Reddings, with MARCUS COOK and ANDY GRAY, in his first League season, scoring two tries apiece.

In 2000-01 in the newly-named National One, the Welsh did the double winning 34-6, and 32-17 in Birmingham, in games played within a fortnight of each other.

Gregory’s game
In the following season, Moseley did the double, winning 29-18 at Old Deer Park in what has been known as Gregory’s Match, in which he scored three tries, equalling the League record for the club held by PETER SHILLINGFORD, 1988, DAVE SPILLER, 1992, PETER BUXTON 2000, RICHARD PROTHEROUGH, 2002 and DARRAGH O’MAHONY three times, 1997 and 1998 twice.

GREGORY gave a hint of what was to come scoring an individual try just before half-time. After the interval, full of confidence, he could do no wrong, causing the Welsh defence many moments of anxiety and scoring two more brilliant tries. ROD MARTIN scored Moseley’s bonus-winning fourth try and LEIGH HINTON converted three.
Moseley won 17-15 in the game at Bournbrook, staving off relegation with the Welsh finishing fifth. London Welsh did the double in 2002-3, 19-31 and 29-0 in Moseley’s relegation season.

Precious win
With both clubs experiencing difficulty in National One this season, Moseley gained a narrow 13-6 win at Old Deer Park, replacement DEAN BICK scoring the deciding try in an error-strewn game on December 30 last. However, the win took Moseley out of the relegation zone at the expense of the Welsh.

Head to head
To date, including League games, seventy four games have been played overall Overall League record: P11, Moseley have won four, London Welsh seven, with Moseley 184 points, London Welsh 262.

Head men
London Welsh have MARTIN JONES as Head Coach and PETER THOMAS as Head of Operations.

New men
Newcomers this season include fly-half TOM MARKS from Llanelli, prop DORIAN WILLIAMS, also from Llanelli, JAMES STOREY, a centre from London Irish and full-back SAM ULPH from Wasps who is at Loughborough University. He is the leading points scorer with 225 points and try scorer with six.

Injuries to several players, including STOREY and centre DUNCAN HEYWARD and the club’s precarious League position at Christmas meant that they were obliged to sign players on loan from Harlequins, with whom they have links. They included flanker GEORGE ROBSON, who was captain of the Harlequins U19 team that defeated Moseley in the final of the English Clubs Colts Cup in May 2005, TAJIV ‘TOSH’ MASON, a former England U21 centre, prop LORNE WARD and flanker TOM GUEST, who may have been recalled by the Quins.

Stalwarts
They join the club captain, scrum-half ALAN CHILTERN and lock HOWARD QUIGLEY, who has also captained the side, and No 8 PAUL COX, last season’s Player of the Year.

On the up
The Welsh have now moved up to twelfth with away wins at Coventry, an early season win at Headingley Carnegie, Nottingham and Waterloo, and a draw at Doncaster, and have home wins against Cornish Pirates, Coventry, Otley, Sedgley Tigers and Waterloo.

They are much improved from December and will provide a stern task for Moseley who will be striving to give of their best on Old Players’ Day and to win and clinch survival if Otley lose at Exeter. It may possibly come down to the last day of the season with Moseley at relegated Waterloo and Otley home to London Welsh! So the Welsh could play an influential part.

However, Moseley will be buoyed by the magnificent team performance that resulted in a fine win over Nottingham at Billesley a fortnight ago. A good start after the week’s break is essential.

Yet another intriguing game for spectators of both sides at an occasion when we welcome some old players from London Welsh as well as many of our own Players Association and await the Moseley Supporters’ Player of the Season to be presented after the game. We hope you all enjoy the day.

At our last home game of the season, we wish our supporters an enjoyable summer and thank you for your support in a difficult season when loyalty has been of the essence and much appreciated.

 

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