by Joe Heaton

MOSELEY v Newbury Blues -  at Billesley Common - Saturday, December 20th, k. o. 3pm (but come for lunch!)

Newbury, in Berkshire, sits on the River Kennett, and its history is a tale of corn, wool and latterly telephones. While the town itself has a population of 32,000, the wider conurbation numbers 60,000. In 1972 the M4 opened and commuting to London became easier, bringing wealth and business skills to the town and laying the foundations for a boom in technical excellence. Vodaphone established its Headquarters on the outskirts of the town in the early 1980s and now employs 4000. Over the years the nuclear missiles base at Greenham Common, near Newbury, has been the subject of many passionate protests. On a more peaceful note, Newbury has a renowned race course.

Newbury Rugby Football Club, ‘the Blues,’ was founded relatively recently in 1924 and has recently enjoyed substantial sponsorship from Vodaphone. The club has played at Monk’s Lane since 1952, where there are five pitches, three of which are floodlit.

In the last decade the Blues have moved up from JN1 to National League Two, entering National League One at the start of season 2005-06. Last season they came 13th, a good return for the team with one of the lowest playing budgets and the lowest attendance at home matches. However, the significant reduction in Vodaphone’s contribution at the end of last season caused a massive reduction in the 2008/9 playing budget and a mass exodus of players during the close season., including that of current Moseley centre Andy Reay, but so far they have done better than many pundits predicted. In the second match of the season, in early September, Moseley beat Newbury 30-12 at Monk’s Lane.

The strongest department in the Newbury side is the front row of Mark Irish, Paul Fincken and Wayne Thompson. Moseley must ensure at least parity up front, for the scrummaging power of their pack has been noted by many opposing teams that have beaten the club.

The results of Newbury’s last three matches are:

6th December Sedgley Park 42 v Newbury 37 L (Bonus Point)
29th November Newbury 12 v Leeds Carnegie 89 L
23rd November Rotherham 63 v Newbury 5 L

The relative position of the two clubs in National League One is:

             P W D  L  BP P Pos.
Moseley  15 6 0  9  9 33 11
Newbury 15 3 0 12 4 16 14

Newbury’s league status is therefore threatened, with only Otley and Manchester below. The Blues players will be motivated to give of their very best on Saturday, so Moseley beware!

The calling off, last Saturday, of Moseley’s fixture against London Welsh, due to a waterlogged pitch, was probably a blessing in disguise, given the appalling conditions. Had the match been played, the speed of our exciting and high scoring backs would have been neutered in the mud. They are at their most decisive on a firm ground. The Saturday off will also have enabled several players to rest niggling mid season injuries and face Newbury at Billesley in peak condition.

This is another ‘must win’ match for Moseley, preferably with a crucial bonus point. Again, the enemies are complacency and the understandable relaxation that arises in a game potentially less pressurised than usual. These pitfalls were magnificently avoided against Manchester a fortnight ago. A repeat performance against Newbury is needed to set the team up to face Coventry away on Boxing Day.


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