NEWBURY v MOSELEY, National League 1, on Saturday, Feb. 3 at Monks Lane, Newbury, KICK-OFF 2PM. (England match (KO 4pm) can be watched on Newbury’s big screen).

Key encounters
After the gritty win against fellow relegation strugglers Otley last week at Billesley, the Moseley squad and travelling faithful go on the road to play Newbury next Saturday and Sedgley Park on the 17th, a-hunting points against clubs currently lying 11th and 12th. At least a bonus point is within Moseley’s range if the team plays at the top of its concentration level.

Bogey ground
However, the visit to Newbury is a daunting one, as Moseley has yet to win at Monks Lane. In 2003-4, after Moseley had been relegated from National One, Moseley won 13-10 in a close game at Bournbrook, but were overwhelmed 45-7 in the away fixture, with Newbury scoring seven tries.

In the following season when Newbury won promotion to National One, finishing second just above Moseley, they did the double, winning 31-16 at Bournbrook and 20-6 at Monks Lane.

Australian fly-half DAVE HARVEY scored thirty-one of their fifty-one points scored over the two games. Although he has moved to pastures new, full-back MAL ROBERTS, who scored two of Newbury’s tries and winger MARTIN NUTT one are still with the club and likely to be in Newbury’s side on Saturday.

Sporting centre
The county of Berkshire is gradually becoming well-known as a venue of several sports. Horse racing has always been evident with the abundance of stables around Lambourn, and now with the Madejeski Stadium, rugby with London Irish in the Premiership and Reading in the soccer Premiership.

Upwardly mobile

Now, a few miles west along the old A4 trunk road lies Newbury whose progress to National One has been gradual but sure.

In National Division Four South in 1996-7, they won promotion to Jewson One, which changed to National Two in 2000-01. They stayed in that League, their best position being 6th, until 2004-5 when they won promotion, finishing second, a place above Moseley.

In their first season in National One, they survived, finishing 11th, five points in front of 12th placed London Welsh, achieving like Welsh, eight wins. Thus a young club, founded in 1928 and owing its existence to the efforts of Len Whittaker, who left St Barts Grammar School in 1924, they have built up from starting League rugby in South West Two to their present status of just below the Premiership.

Smart home
The club’s move to Monks Lane, a purpose built site, in 1996 came just after their promotion from the regional to the National League.

In their first season at Monks Lane, they won Division Four South with a 100% record, winning all twenty-five games. The former London Scottish winger / full-back NICK GRECIAN scored 391 points and winger BRIAN JOHNSON scored twenty-seven tries, a new National Division record. He went on to represent England ‘A’ against South Africa ‘A’ at Gloucester, the Barbarians and the Army.

Newbury were well served by their Army personnel, including the captain JULIAN BRAMMER. NICK GRECIAN was also selected by the Barbarians.

Representative games
The Monks Lane complex grew and the RFU awarded the club a Divisional match against a touring team from Queensland, followed by several representative matches and all four England U-21 matches in 2002-3.

The ground now holds 8,000 people. The clubhouse and various bars are spacious and with its Business Conference, Banqueting, Private and Corporate facilities, Aerobics and Fitness Studio, a lucrative future awaits.

Top coaches
Newbury has always had good coaches and knowledgeable Directors of Rugby. STEFAN CZERPAK coached the 1996-97 successful squad and had also coached England Colts; the Director of Rugby was TERRY BURWILL, who went on to become the current RFU Tournaments and Competition Director.

England ‘A’ coach KEITH RICHARDSON took over from Burwill and their current coach is the well thought-of BEN RYAN, who was assisted at the start of the season by BRIAN ASHTON, keeping his hand in at club level before his appointment as England’s Head Coach.

Ben has been appointed Head Coach of the England 7’s for the rest of the IRB Series. He will continue to coach England as well as the England Counties for their matches against Ireland Amateurs on 23 February and France Amateurs on 10 March. He was a former Nottingham and West Hartlepool scrum-half.

Player links
The Moseley links between the two clubs are the former Moseley full-back CHRIS DOSSETT, who coaches, and hooker ANDREW DALGELISH, who could be in the Newbury side on Saturday and ANDY TIBBATTS, who came through the Moseley youth system – both having won their Moseley 1st XV ties in 2002-3.

New recruits
After losing centre DUNCAN BELL and flanker CHRIS CRACKNEEL to Cornish Pirates, and top scorer BLAIR FEENEY (225 points), Newbury have recruited well. Fly-half TIM WALSH, ex-Queensland Reds, Leeds and Pertemps Bees is their leading points scorer to date with 180 points, lock GREGOR HAYTER, ex-Glasgow Warriors who captains the side, ex-Bristol No 8 CHRIS MORGAN, winger DAVID REES from Leeds, and centre ALI JAMES from Gloucester have all played their part for Newbury this season.

Their leading try scorer is full-back MAL ROBERTS with 12 and who has scored 587 points in his career for Newbury since 1998, beating NICK GRECIAN’s career record of 567 points scored 1996-8.

Other stalwarts of the Newbury squad include streetwise Scrum-half DAN SMAJE, who moved from neighbours Henley last season, wingers KENNY BINGHAM and MARTIN NUTT, who scored two tries against Nottingham last week s did SMAJE, and centre MARK IRELAND, over 50 appearances, and forwards, props ROB FAULKNER, SIMON CARTER and South African RAYEN BRUCE, hooker GLEN COOPER, lock TOM RADBOURNE, over 50 appearances another newcomer TOME BROWN from Worcester at No 8 and flanker, the exciting ISOA DAMU DAMU. All could be in this experienced squad on Saturday.

Big loss
Moseley suffered the serious loss of NATHAN BRESSINGTON in the vital win over Otley last Saturday - he is believed to be suffering concussion after a neck injury – but will still enter the game with confidence after their absolutely crucial win over Otley.

Newbury have won just three games at Monks Lane; against London Welsh, Nottingham and Otley. They have won four away, the double at London Welsh, Waterloo Drummers, Pertemps Bees and a narrow 22-17 win at Moseley with Newbury overturning a 17-6 lead when TIM WALSH kicked a penalty, made a break from ten metres to score, and MARTIN NUTT scored after 52 minutes, WALSH kicked another penalty after 59 minutes to give Newbury a five point lead.

Moseley fought hard to the end of the game, but had not the cutting edge to reduce the arrears. OLLIE THOMAS kicked two penalties and a dropped goal before the interval and one immediately afterwards to add to CARL COLVIN’s 12th minute try.

Tough one
It will not be easy for Moseley to win points at Monks Lane on Saturday. Newbury are a resilient side and, although they have won only three games at home, they have not been heavily defeated there by any of the top sides in the Division.

Their heaviest defeat has been 45-13 away to Leeds Tykes. They narrowly lost to Nottingham 27-25 at Meadow Lane last week. But points are an attainable target and now is the time for Moseley’s first victory at Monks Lane.

Warm welcome
To the travelling faithful, Monks Lane is a very sociable place to go (off the field) and with the chance to watch the International after the game (4pm kick-off), good games are in store with your support much appreciated by the Moseley players away from home.

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