BIG MATCH PREVIEW

 

by Mike Pollak


Bridgwater & Albion v Moseley, at College Way,  EDF Energy National Trophy,
Saturday, Feb 7th (Now Feb 14th) 2009, k.o. 3.00 pm


On Saturday the Moseley players will take a breather from the increasingly tense activity in National League One and travel to Bridgwater & Albion in the last sixteen of the EDF Energy National Trophy.
Though the Midlanders are currently two leagues above the National Three South side, a tough challenge can be expected as over the years the West Country club has progressed far enough in the Cup to host the likes of Harlequins, Newbury and Blackheath. So far this season’ Bridgwater’s Cup run has included wins over Haywards Heath and Havant at home in rounds one and two South and Rugby and Broadstreet with late scores away in rounds three and four.


Club history
Bridgwater is a busy market town of 33,000 people lying in the valley of the river Parrett in Somerset. In the past, its prosperity was based on being a port, a centre of the cloth trade and a manufacturer of roofing tiles and bricks. These days it’s an administrative hub and centre for tourism.
Bridgwater & Albion Rugby Club was founded in 1875 - just two years after Moseley - and has been a leading Somerset team for much of its history. Fourteen years ago, the club moved from its Broadway Ground to spanking new premises at College Way. This ground has a grandstand, covered terracing, floodlights and a clubhouse with conference and banqueting facilities. To add to the envy of other clubs, some money was even left them in the bank after the move!
At that time the club was playing in South West Two league having enjoyed an excellent run in the then Pilkington Cup which ended at Kingston Park at the hands of the then Newcastle-Gosforth. The club prospered, and reached National League Three South by 1997/8.
Sadly, the past decade has been an all too familiar rugby tale. At the beginning of this season, club President Mike Berry reminded members that the facilities had become a burden and could only be maintained if they were 100 per cent in use and generating income. Money had in the past been spent engaging professional coaches, highly paid players and administrators, but all this still failed to prevent the club from dropping of the national leagues for a while. The Broadway ground was also suffering from vandalism and deteriorating playing surfaces.
He added that although the club returned to the National Leagues in 2005/6, the financial effort of doing so and retaining that status further depleted club resources. The club is now tentatively considering more viable and extensive premises.
In the past, the club - like many others across the country - had had a fair share of foreign talent on its books. However as part of the refocusing, coach Mike Tewkesbury – appointed last season - is said to be concentrating on developing existing talent, and players from the area.


Previous inter club games
Pre-professional era, Moseley regularly played Bridgwater when going to the West Country for the club’s annual Easter tour. A match programme from March 1967 enthused: “The Easter Saturday visit of Moseley is always a highlight in our rugger calendar. Our visitors are enjoying a splendid season and currently boast three Internationals in their ranks.”
On that occasion Bridgwater noted that two of those internationals - Colin McFadyean and Mike Coulman - were on the team sheet, along with six other county players which included future International Sam Doble and leading try scorer Keith Hatter. Bridgwater fielded six county players.


Bridgwater’s current form
In the league this season, Bridgwater’s record reads seven wins and eight losses and a ninth place out of 14 teams. Since the beginning of December the club’s last four League games, all against clubs lower in the league, have resulted in two wins and two losses:
Dec 6 Havant 39 Bridgwater 25
Dec 20 Bridgwater 20 Lydney 0
Jan 24 Chinnor 29 Bridgwater 3
Jan 31 Bridgwater 22 Barking 15
So far this season, the West Country men have averaged just over two tries a game (35 from 15 League games), compared with the Midlanders’ three tries a game (56 tries in 19 League games).
Bridgwater’s leading try scorers are both back row men - flanker David Kimberley has six tries from eight starts, and No8 Ben Purcell has eight from 14 games.


Moseley form
Moseley come into the match having had a reality check 44-17 reverse at Nottingham last Sunday following the spectacular comeback win at Billesley against Rotherham the week before.
While that loss may have been due partly to Nottingham still smarting from an unexpected loss to Doncaster the previous weekend, there were certain areas in that match which will give the Moseley coaches some concerns. The lack of a functioning line out, some misplaced kicking and occasional poor decision making spurning kickable penalties need to be addressed or they could be exploited by a West country side which will certainly be fired up for the big occasion.
Bridgwater on paper should present easier opposition than either of Moseley’s last two opponents but Moseley would be foolish to be complacent. There is nothing minnows like better than claiming a bigger fish swimming in a higher League pool. However whatever the result, the travelling Moseley support will certainly enjoy the visit to and hospitality of a traditional rugby club.

 

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