A Close Run Thing 

Following the introduction of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup, in 1881/82, Moseley won the inaugural competition, were runners-up in the second and won the third and fourth editions. The side must, therefore, have felt fairly confident as they approached the 1885/86 cup.

Moseley entered that season’s competition at the second round stage when they travelled to play Warwick, a fixture that the away side was expected to win easily. The home side, however, had other ideas and raised their game for the occasion restricting their visitors to a victory by one try and four touchdowns[1] to nil. How much Warwick had risen to the occasion can be gauged from the fact that the sides met at Moseley, in a club match, on the following Saturday and the home side triumphed by four goals, one try and five touchdowns to two touchdowns.

Having successfully negotiated the trip to Warwick, Moseley were rewarded with a home tie against Nottingham in the third round. This game was played in heavy rain and high wind but Nottingham, who Moseley had defeated earlier in the season, proved no match for their hosts who won by one goal, one dropped goal, one try and five touchdowns to one try and three touchdowns. One interesting feature of the match was the dropped goal scored by Moseley three-quarter Hasluck, which initially appeared to have fallen short but which was allowed after the home team appealed to the referee.

Moseley had now reached the semi-finals of the challenge cup at which stage they received a home draw against near neighbours Edgbaston Crusaders, a team they had defeated at the beginning of the season. Contrary to expectations the match proved to be something of an anti-climax because Moseley won by a score of one dropped goal, four tries and six touchdowns to one touchdown. The only disappointing feature of the home side’s performance was their inability to convert any of the tries.

The final, on 10th April 1886, was played at Coventry and Moseley’s opponents were Rugby. The match promised to be a close encounter as the two sides had met twice during the season and had drawn on both occasions. During the morning both snow and rain fell resulting in a very slippery ground, which caused the players to make many mistakes. Not surprisingly, given the conditions, the game was chiefly contested by the two packs, which were evenly matched.

The only scores during the first half were three touchdowns to Moseley. One of the Moseley three-quarters, Mylins, did go over for what he thought was a try but the score was disallowed because of an earlier knock-on. There were no further scores in the second half and therefore Moseley retained the cup by the extremely narrow margin of three touchdowns to nil. The Birmingham Daily Post reported that ‘So stoutly contested a game has not been witnessed for some time by lovers of the Rugby code.’ 

This was the third consecutive time that Moseley had won the Midland Counties Challenge Cup and the fourth time in the five years of the competition’s existence.

[1]  A touchdown was scored when a defending team was forced to touch the ball down in its own in-goal area, an action that today would result in a 22-metre dropout or a 5-metre scrummage.