by Joe Heaton

MOSELEY v Henley Hawks  -  at Billesley Common - EDF Energy National Trophy - Saturday, January 17th 2009, k. o. 3pm (but come for lunch!)

Last season the Henley Hawks, who play Moseley on Saturday afternoon in the Fourth Round of the EDF Energy Trophy competition, were involved in the most spectacular collapse in the relatively short history of League Rugby Union in England. This has given directors and coaches of other leading clubs nightmares at the thought that this could happen to them also.

Henley started last season in National League Two as one of the favourites for promotion to National One, having been denied this prize by a single point the previous season (2006-07). By November the club was comfortably in mid-table. After easily beating the league leaders, however, Henley won only two more league points and finished in thirteenth place and suffered relegation to National League Three (South).

In a late attempt to stop the rot last season, the then Director of Rugby, Jon Lambden, and his coaching team were replaced to no avail by the former Welsh International, Jason Foster. So far this season the Hawks have won seven, drawn two and lost four of their matches in the league and are in fourth place in the lower division.

Henley Rugby Club is the leading rugby club based in the Thames Valley. (The London Irish club plays its matches at the Madjeski Stadium but the club’s base is Sunbury, Middlesex, where all its junior teams play).

Henley was founded in 1930 as Old Henleiensians (Old Boys of Henley Grammar School). The club was in abeyance during the War but was re-founded in 1954 as Henley Rugby Club and now plays at ‘Dry Leas’ in Marlow Road. The Hawks had four seasons in National League 1 2000-2002, and 2003-2005.

The EDF Energy Cup and Trophy is the current incarnation of the RFU’s national knock-out competition, involving 132 clubs around the country. First played in 1972, under the sponsorship of John Player, the competition has evolved over the years.

Older Moseley members and supporters will remember that Moseley reached the final of the old John Player Cup in the first year of the competition losing to Gloucester by 12-14 (with only twelve Moseley men left on the pitch at the end) and in 1979 lost to Leicester, 12-15 also in the final. In 1982 Moseley finally "won"  the cup, jointly with Gloucester after a 12-12 draw in the final at Twickenham.

Starting in season 2005-06 the Cup competition was split into two separate components. Twelve clubs from the Guinness Premiership plus the four Welsh regional teams, now compete for the EDF Energy Cup while the clubs from National League One and below, battle it out for the EDF Energy National Trophy.

Moseley had a tough draw and fell at the first hurdle in each of the last two seasons (to the eventual winners in 2006), and the last Trophy victory came as long ago as 2005 when local rivals Stourbridge were defeated.

Henley Hawks have already won three matches in the Cup to reach this stage. So far they have overcome Rosslyn Park, Hertford and Stourbridge to earn the trip to Birmingham.

The two sides have met on nine previous occasions, splitting their eight league games with Moseley winning a tight National Cup tie 24-20 in October 2004. The only time they have faced each other at the relatively new Billesley Common ground, the home side edged the Hawks 22-19.

However Moseley were in National Two and Henley in National One when Mose sprang the Trophy upset four years ago. Henley have since dropped two divisions and Moseley are now in their third season since rising back to National One.
Neither Henley nor Moseley played last Saturday due to frozen pitches; indeed the Moseley players have not had a competitive game since Boxing Day. Much could therefore depend upon which of the two teams has been able to keep itself fit.

On the face of it a team in National League One, playing at home, would be expected to beat a team in National League Three. The history of the Cup and Trophy competitions, however, is strewn with upsets against known form, so Moseley will have to be careful.

Note: Season ticket holders are reminded that season tickets do not include cup games and normal admission prices will apply. (Prices)



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