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Midland Counties Challenge Cup 1 

In 1881/82 the Midland Counties Football Union launched the Midland Counties Challenge Cup, one of the main attractions of which was that clubs would be drawn to play teams that they did not usually encounter and this was exactly what happened in the first round when Moseley were drawn at home to Kettering.

This historic first ever cup-tie was played on 22nd October 1881 in miserable conditions on a heavy ground, which made it difficult to handle the ball. The result was a straightforward win for Moseley by four goals, two tries and seven touchdowns to two touchdowns[1].

Moseley’s reward for their victory was a second round home tie against archrivals Burton. However, on this occasion Moseley won easily beating their visitors by two goals, four tries and six touchdowns to nil.

Having won through the first two rounds of the competition Moseley then found themselves in the final, which took place at Coventry, on 1st April 1882 in front of a crowd of around 2,000. The club’s opponents were Leamington Rovers and having not lost a match since March 1880 and having already beaten their opponents twice during the season Moseley were red-hot favourites to win the inaugural Challenge Cup.

During the first half play was predominantly in the Rovers’ half and after ‘a splendid dodgy run by G. Fowler’ Denston Gibson scored the first try and ‘amid enthusiastic cheering’ Albert Smith kicked the conversion. From the very next play forward R. Williamson scored an unconverted try and Moseley continued to attack in the period leading up to half time but stout defence by the Leamington side prevented them from scoring another try though Willoughby Hasluck did miss with an attempted drop goal.

Soon after half time Otter and Wilson inter-passed for the former to score Moseley’s third try, which Smith converted into a goal. A few minutes later Hasluck scored a fourth try for Moseley, which Smith failed to convert. There then followed a period of attack by Leamington, however, Hasluck was able to kick out of defence, gather the ball and pass to Otter who scored his second try which Smith converted. The final score of the match was a hat-trick effort by Otter, which Fowler was unable to covert into a goal.

Moseley thus became the first holders of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup by a score of three goals, three tries and seven touchdowns to nil and captain Albert Smith was carried from the field shoulder high to crown a second successive unbeaten season for the club.

Moseley’s defence of the Challenge Cup began with a home tie against Rushden on 21st October 1882, which the hosts won by the narrow margin of one dropped goal to three touchdowns.

The club’s second round tie was played, at home, one week later against Leicester and resulted in a Moseley win by one goal, one dropped goal, one try and five touchdowns to one touchdown.

As in the previous season, following Moseley’s second round Challenge Cup victory, in October 1882, there was then a period of several months before the club recommenced its cup campaign. Their next encounter was a home semi-final match, on 31st March 1883, against Wolverhampton, which Moseley won easily by two goals, three tries and three touchdowns to one touchdown.

The final, against Burton, which was played on the following Saturday took place at Coventry and was watched by several thousand spectators. After seven minutes play Burton scored a converted try and shortly afterwards ‘amid great excitement’ Fowler crossed the line for Moseley only to drop the ball before scoring.

Shortly after half time Lea did score a try for Moseley but Albert Smith was unable to convert it into a goal. Then ‘amid great cheering’ Lea touched down a second try which Smith was unable to convert into a goal. Smith’s missed conversions were to prove crucial in deciding the destination of the trophy. Burton replied to this unconverted try with a converted try before Moseley forward Otter scored another try for his side which Albert Smith was able to convert into a goal.

At this period in the game’s history goals outscored any number of tries and therefore Burton won the cup somewhat fortuitously by a score of two goals and one touchdown to one goal, two tries and six touchdowns.


[1] A touchdown was scored when a team was forced to ground the ball in its own in-goal area.