BIG MATCH PREVIEW - Nottingham
by PETER WOODROOFE
Two away games over the Christmas period! Such are the vagaries of the fixture list in National One this season. However, the playing squad gave its supporters the best of Christmas presents last Saturday by defeating Coventry in an exciting game at Billesley, winning much needed League points, regaining the Moseley Trophy and gaining a victory in one of the oldest local derbies in the game.
Nottingham was founded in 1877 as a result of a certain 16-year-old Alick Birkin returning to Nottingham from Rugby School and gathering some friends together to form a rugby-playing team. Members of the Birkin family were associated with the club from 1877-1956. Alick became Sir Alexander Russell Birkin and was involved with the club until his death in 1942.
It was Alick’s brother Leslie who gave the ground at Beeston to the club in 1904. After various hitches, Nottingham finally played its last 1st XV game at Beeston at the end of last season and moved to Lady Bay, West Bridgford.
However, the Lady Bay complex is still being prepared to host 1st XV matches and Nottingham has come to an arrangement with Notts County AFC to share its ground. The club appears to have settled in very well having beaten there, amongst others, Bedford 29-28 and Plymouth Albion14-13.
Several fine international players have won caps while playing for Nottingham, including DUSTY HARE, GARY REES, ROB ANDREW, BRIAN MOORE, CHRIS OTI, SIMON HODGKINSON, who later played for Moseley 1993-95, during which he was predictably Moseley’s top points scorer, and Scottish international CHRIS GRAY, who won all his twenty-two caps while with Nottingham.
There has been a long association between the two clubs and matches have been played against each other at all levels over the years. The 1st teams have met regularly from immediately after the Second World War except for the 1960s.
Both clubs started League rugby in Division One of the Courage Clubs Championship. Indeed, they played each other on the first day, on September 5 1987, and because the kick-off at Beeston was early, it was the first match to be completed in Division One, Nottingham winning 21-12.
Moseley was relegated from Division One after four seasons and Nottingham five. The two clubs last met in League rugby in 2003-4 when Nottingham won promotion from National Two. A 26-26 draw was played at Bournbrook and Nottingham won 41-25 at Beeston.
In their first season in National One in 2004-5, Nottingham finished eleventh having the normal struggle in their first season at the higher level. However, last season they improved to seventh winning thirteen and losing thirteen games. After a slow start, three wins in their first ten games, they won ten of their last sixteen games, including three successive away defeats at Harlequins, Rotherham and London Welsh.
Fly-half NEIL STENHOUSE has been their leading points scorer for the last three seasons, scoring 551 points, 166 last season. Centre CHRIS WYLES scored eleven tries last season. Former club captain, Kiwi GLENN DELANEY, after being assistant to SIMON BEATHAM, moved up to Director of Rugby to oversee a successful season. They also reached the semi-final of the Powergen National Trophy before losing to eventual winners Harlequins 24-10 at Beeston.
Nottingham have recruited TIM STIMPSON, the England international as backs coach. He scored a record 1180 points for Leicester and has replaced DARLY GIBSON who was injured last season but is now back playing for Leicester. Tim should feel at home at Meadow Lane as his grandfather played soccer for Notts County.
Other significant newcomers include TIM BARLOW, fly-half from Cornish Pirates, their leading points scorer last season, RYAN HOPKINS (prop) and NIC ROUSE (lock) from Plymouth Albion, ALEX DODGE, centre, from Leicester, TYSON MEER, fly-half from Denver, USA, No 8 DAN MONTAGUE from Leicester and also from Leicester, scrum-half RON SPRINGHALL.
A newcomer to the 1st team is full-back RONAN NIRMALENDRAN, part Sri Lankan, part Czech and born in Britain, who has come from Nottingham’s junior teams. He can play wing or full-back and is an exciting player, a Jason Robinson type who has free reign.
Experienced players who have been with Nottingham for some time include DAVID JACKSON, full-back / wing, lock CRAIG HAMMOND, who has captained England Counties, both over one hundred appearances, utility back BEN THOMPSON, winger WILL LOGAN and Kiwi centre TIM MOLINAAR.
The Nottingham club is currently lying tenth, winning six matches and losing ten so far this season. The last outing against Doncaster at Meadow Lane last Sunday resulted in a loss by 17-35 in front of a crowd of 1,280. Tim Barlow is the leading points scorer with one hundred and thirty-nine. Fifty-four tries have been scored to date this season.
The encouraging win against Coventry last Saturday did not result in a move up the league table but kept Moseley in touch with the bottom five clubs. However the East Midlands team is always difficult to beat at Meadow Lane and Moseley will have to work hard to win points.
PAUL ARNOLD, who joined Moseley from Nottingham this season, has recovered from injury and came on as a replacement for Alex Hadley after 43 minutes last week. Only flanker RICHARD BIGNELL came off injured and the front-row remained intact!
For those making the Christmas Eve trip to Nottingham, thank you for your support and enjoy the occasion. Thanks Alison, one of the Hill dynasty, for arranging the trip. A Happy Christmas to you all.
DIRECTIONS TO NOTTINGHAM
We hope you will take advantage of the supporters coach for this Sunday’s match at Nottingham. But if not – please note that it is a 12.45 kick off at Meadow Lane (Notts County FC’s ground)
Directions to Meadow Lane
From Junction 24 off The M1
Exit Junction 24 of the M1. Follow the signs for Nottingham on the A453, continuing through Clifton, passing the Trent University on your left-hand side. At the next set of traffic lights, continue straight over and follow the signs for West Bridgford (B679). Continue for two miles, at the junction turn left onto the A60. Continue over Trent Bridge and take the first right turn at the lights into Cattle Market Road, Meadow Lane Stadium is on your right-hand side.
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