by Joe Heaton

MOSELEY v  Coventry - at Billesley Common, Saturday September 13th ,

k. o. 3pm (but come for lunch!)

‘Coventry’ – the very word causes the spine of Moseley’s supporters to tingle. What memories, good and not so good, are invoked and how eagerly the “Mose v Cov” contest is anticipated. It was not so long ago that this traditional derby game was looked upon by many rugby folk as the highlight of the club rugby season in England and some titanic battles ensued.

During June and July, however, it looked highly probable that this historic fixture would not be played, as Coventry tottered on the very brink of liquidation. Matters were complicated by the RFU demanding a bond of £100,000 as a guarantee that Coventry would meet its fixture obligations in the season ahead. In the event, only slightly more than £50,000 was raised through the excellent efforts of a Coventry Evening Telegraph campaign but the RFU ultimately agreed to accept the lower figure thus enabling the navy blue and whites to turn out this afternoon.

Coventry Rugby Club, buoyed by support in the city, is now very much alive and in business. The experienced Phil Maynard has taken charge of the team’s fortunes, after an eighteen month sabbatical following his departure from Birmingham & Solihull. He in turn has retained his forwards coach Dave Addleton and recruited Howard Graham as backs coach. Maynard has been lucky that, as most of the club’s key players were on a two year contract, he was not faced by a mass exodus. He has, also recruited a respected Australian forward, Greg Thomas although Coventry reportedly still has one of the smallest squads in National League One.

The RFU’s has stated that its medium term objective is to create a twelve team league within the Premiership format which would in effect reduce the current National League One by four teams. The timing of this is uncertain although the possibility that it could be effected at the end of this season, or possibly the following one, highlights the importance of this game. Bearing in mind that Moseley gained 10th place last season (out of 16) and Coventry ended up 8th emphasises the stakes for both clubs and that every point earned in this fixture could be priceless.

Last season Moseley experienced a heavy defeat at Coventry (43-16), followed by a narrow home victory (22-20) at Billesley.

Coventry made a respectable start to the current campaign when losing to Plymouth Albion away 13-5 although failed to gain a bonus point due to an injury time penalty. Last Saturday the Butts Arena club won its first home match against the ambitious and well backed Cornish Pirates, 16-0. It was reported that this was achieved by determination, team spirit and rugby intelligence, rather than superior footballing skills, qualities that the Moseley players will have to match if they wish to get anything from this fixture.

Moseley too made an encouraging start winning one game and lost the other but the advantage of the bonus point earned against London Welsh means a seventh place in the nascent League Table with five points compared to Coventry with four points on tenth. The scene is thus set for another highly competitive match in this longest running series of local derbies.

Billesley Common will be no place for the faint hearted on Saturday afternoon!


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