MOSELEY v NEWBURY, National League Division 1, at Billesley, Saturday, October 14, 2006, KO 3.00 pm  (but come for lunch )

We welcome the players, supporters and officials of Newbury Blues to Billesley on Saturday in a game in which Moseley must make home advantage count – such is the current position of both clubs, towards the bottom of National One.

Young club
Newbury was founded in 1928, one of the younger clubs in the Division, which reflects great credit on the club in their aim, to climb the ladder of League rugby.

Only the amalgamated clubs, Pertemps Bees (Birmingham and Solihull), Leeds Tykes (Headingley and Roundhay), Cornish Pirates (Penzance and Newlyn) and Sedgley Park Tigers (1932) are younger, and the amalgamated clubs all have older roots.

The club owes its existence to the efforts of LEN WHITTAKER, who left St Barts Grammar School in 1924. It found a permanent ground in 1932 and stayed there until 1952.

Early recognition
During that period the club made steady progress, producing a standard of play that encouraged such clubs as Northampton, Gloucester, Harlequins and Wasps to come and play the club.

In 1938-9, Newbury was crowned unofficially by the local press as ‘Champions of Berkshire’. The 21st season was one of the best ever enjoyed. Six players represented the County in a 1st XV that had a record of Played 35, Won 24, Drawn 4 and Lost 7, scoring 383 points, with 208 against, a try being worth three points in those days with a dropped goal reduced from four points to three in 1948-9. Three XVs were sometimes fielded at that time.

On the move
In 1952, the club moved to a new ground in Pinchington Lane, but had to wait until 1958 for a clubhouse to be built there.

In 1996, the club moved to Monks Lane, where there are five pitches, three of which are fully floodlit.

They now field 18 teams, from the 1st XV to the Under 7s, including a Women’s team.

Cup exploits
Newbury first qualified for the RFU Cup in 1992-3 and have qualified every season since 1996-7, the ‘annus mirabilis’ of Newbury’s history.

Upwardly mobile
They started League rugby in 1987-88 in South West 2, in company with Launceston and Henley, who have also progressed up the League ladder.

They won promotion to SW1 in 1990-91 and to National Division 4 South in 1995-6. There followed the above-mentioned annus mirabiliis, 1996-7 – the club’s first season in the National League, the start of the official professional era, the first season at their new ground at Monks Lane.

And what a season it was! Played 25, Won 25, points for 1170, Points again 295. The runners-up were Henley, eight points behind. They actually played one game less, their match against the bottom club was not played as Askeans could not raise a full side for their last game of the season.

Their new ground was not available until mid-October, so their first five games were away. Their first home match was, appropriately, a local derby against their nearest challengers, Henley, also undefeated.

They won a close game 11 – 9 in front of 2,000 spectators, the only try being scored by CHRIS DAVIES, who had represented Wales U21 and Wales Students. He scored 25 tries in the season.

Star turns
Leading try scorer was winger BRIAN JOHNSON, whose 27 tries was a new National Division record. He went on to represent England ‘A’ against South Africa ‘A’ at Gloucester. The leading points scorer was full-back NICK GRECIAN, formerly of London Scottish, with a club record 391 points. Both Johnson, who also represented the Army, and Grecian were selected for the Barbarians.

The captain was another Army player, JULIAN BRAMMER and the coach was STEFAN CZERPAK who had also coached England Colts. The Director of Rugby was TERRY BURWILL, who went on to become the current RFU tournament and Competitions Director.

(The England A coach, KEITH RICHARDSON took over from Burwill and Johnson moved to Gloucester, repercussions from the start of professionalism).

Six of the squad represented the Army and five the South West Division, against Queensland, Argentina and South Africa ‘A’.

Cup run
In the Pilkington cup they reached the 5th round, beating Bridgwater and Albion, Gloucester Old Boys, both away, Clifton at home and Lydney, away, before losing narrowly to Leicester in the 5th round at Welford Road, 26-21. The Tigers went on to win the Cup. A season worth recording!

Promoted to Jewson One, later to become National 2, they won promotion to National One in their eighth season there, their highest position prior to that being 5th in 1999-2000, and they finished 9th in the four consecutive seasons before their promotion in 2004-5.

In their first season in National One, they finished 11th with 50 points, above London Welsh and the two non-relegated clubs, Sedgley Park and Pertemps Bees. They won eight games and drew two.

Away from Newbury, they drew their games at Sedgley Park and the ‘Bees’ and beat Plymouth Albion 52-41, arguably their best result of the season.

Both last season’s leading scorers, fly-half BLAIR FFENY, 225 points and back-row player CHRIS CRACKNELL, 10 tries, have moved to pastures new.

Centre DUNCAN BELL has moved with Chris Cracknell to Cornish Pirates.

However, their newcomers include fly-half, Australian TIM WALSH, ex-Queensland Reads, Leeds and Pertemps Bees, flanker CHRIS MORGAN, ex Bristol, No 8 / flanker GREGOR HAYTER, ex-Glasgow Warriors, winger DAVID REES, ex-Leeds, centre ALI JAMES, ex-Gloucester and prop JON DAWSON, ex-Wasps.

Approaching Nick Grecian’s career points record for the club (563) is full-back MAL ROBERTS, who has scored 537 points to date, including two tries this season, in 125 appearances.

Centre MARK IRELAND has also scored two tries, while TIM WALSH is their leading points scorer with 43.

Other regulars include streetwise scrum-half DAN SMAJE, who moved from Henley last season, winger KENNY BINGHAM and MARTIN NUTT, and forwards, props ROB FAULKNER, SIMON CARTER and South African RAYEN BRUCE, hooker GLEN COOPER, locks ADAM HARRIS from London Welsh and TOM RADBOURNE, flanker MATT STYLES and another newcomer, No 8 TOM BROWN, from Worcester.

Club links
Newbury’s links with Moseley include former Moseley full-back CHRIS DOSSETT, who coaches, and hooker ANDREW DALGLEISH and flanker ANDY TIBBATTS, who came through the Moseley youth system, who both won their Moseley 1st XV ties in 2002-3.

In charge
Newbury are currently coached by BEN RYAN, to add to the club’s list of highly respected Directors of Rugby and he has been assisted this season by the Engalnd backs coach BRIAN ASHTON, keeping his hand in at club level before the Autumn internationals.

Closely matched
The two clubs are lying 13th and 14th in National One, both with eight points and only a scoring points difference between the clubs of three.

Newbury won their second game of the season last Saturday, defeating Nottingham 19-18.

Moseley have only defeated Bedford, but have won four bonus points, the equivalent of a win, with Newbury not winning any to date.

Moseley won one of their bonus points in an uninspiring game at Otley last Saturday, a disappointing result in that Moseley at their best would have been capable of winning the game. However, they have a chance to make amends in the two home games, this and the following Saturday.

Moseley will be hoping JAMES ASTON will be match fit soon, after recovering from a knee injury sustained last February. With NATHAN BRESSINGTON recovering from injury, too, Moseley need his cutting edge.

Tight one
With both side evenly matched, it’s going to be a tight game at Billesley on Saturday. Home advantage and a supportive crowd should give Moseley the edge in what could be a significant result for either side.

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