Moseley's first cup final appearance was in the inaugural season of what was then called the R.F.U. Club Knock-Out Competition. In reaching the final Moseley certainly enjoyed the luck of the draw as they were drawn at home in all of the rounds prior to their appearance at Twickenham. In the first round Northampton were defeated 25-12, in the second round Bedford were despatched 16-9, in the quarter final Halifax were beaten 22-0 and in the semi final Wilmslow were overcome 18-10. During this run Moseley were described as a ‘free-scoring’ club.
Moseley’s route to Twickenham was in marked contrast to that of the other finalists, Gloucester, who had been drawn away in every round and had to overcome Bath, Bristol, London Welsh and Coventry. The semi-final at Coundon Road ended in a 6-6 draw with Gloucester progressing as the away side. If there had been some other way of breaking the deadlock in drawn matches that first final may have been a Moseley v. Coventry showdown. What a way that would have been to launch the knockout cup!
The cup final was on 29th April 1972 and was watched by a crowd of 15,000. As so often on these occasions the rugby in the final was something of an anticlimax after that played in the earlier rounds. However, the first staging of the competition proved a success in that it provided a climax for the club season and allowed clubs to play against sides that they would not normally meet.
The final kicked off with Moseley playing with the wind and driving rain at their backs. They quickly took advantage of these elements when John Finlan kicked to the corner, Tim Smith picked up the ball and sent an overhead pass out to Malcolm Swain who ran hard for the corner and just made it having beaten a man in the process. Sam Doble kicked a superb conversion from the touchline and Moseley led 6-0.
This pleasure soon turned to pain two minutes later as following a scrum the Welsh referee, Ron Lewis, sent off Moseley’s England international lock, Nigel Horton for punching. This was the first time since 1925 that a player had been sent off in a major match at Twickenham. Another Welsh referee, Albert Freethy, had made the previous dismissal when he sent off Cyril Brownlie, the All Black, during an England v. New Zealand international match.
A few minutes after Horton left the field Gloucester scored their first try through Dix but it was not until almost half time that they finally took the lead when Morris scored their second try. By the interval Moseley were down to 13 men as Tim Smith had retired after 37 minutes with a fractured rib and in those days there were no replacements for injured players.
Worse was to come as 17 minutes into the second half Ian Pringle too had to retire hurt so for the last quarter of the game Moseley were down to 12 men. With such a numerical advantage Gloucester should have run away with the match but Moseley fought on courageously.
After 66 minutes Gloucester added a penalty goal to their score, kicked by Stephens, which gave them an 11-6 lead. Even with three men short Moseley could still have snatched the game with a converted try. Gloucester only finally made the game safe in injury time when Palmer and Booth each dropped a goal. The final score was 17-6 to the men from the West Country.
Strictly speaking this first Twickenham final was not a cup final as the winners received a plaque for their efforts rather than a cup.
The teams in this historic game were as follows:
E.J.F. Stephens; R.J. Clewes, J.A. Bayliss, R. Morris, J. Dix; T. Palmer, M.H. Booth; M.A. Burton, M.J. Nicholls (capt.), R.J. Cowling, A. Brinn, J.S. Jarrett, J.A. Watkins, M.J. Potter, R. Smith.
S.A. Doble; K. Hatter, M.K. Swain, C.W. McFadyean, R. Kerr; J.F. Finlan, J.G. Webster (capt.); C.C. Morrell, D.E. Lane, J. Griffiths, R. Morris, N.E. Horton, T.J. Smith, J.C. White, I.N. Pringle.
Referee: R. Lewis.
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