by Glyn Barlow
At last! The appetisers are over and now we are served the main course.
And what better way to start the 2012/13 Championship season than a game against long time opponents Bedford Blues.
Bedford is a traditional rugby club founded in 1886 thirteen years after Moseley and during the course of its history has suffered similar ups and downs to Moseley. The advent of professionalism, major investors who presided over financial difficulties and a local consortium stepping in to save the club will have long term Moseley supporters nodding in recognition. And, like Moseley, Bedford rode out the hard times and once again is a respected member of the RFU Championship.
Last season Bedford topped the Pool B promotion playoffs only to fall to London Welsh in the semi-finals. Having won one game apiece the Blues lost out very narrowly by 27 – 30 on aggregate. This season, the Goldington Road club will be looking to proceed further in the final stages.
To support these aspirations Bedford’s management has recruited a number of players during the close season. One of ND1’s leading try scorers, winger James Stephenson, joins from Blackheath along with Newcastle prop Darren Fearn and Esher fly half Mark Atkinson. Raids on the Premiership have yielded 2nd row Ben Gulliver from Worcester and Tom Armes from the Leicester back row.
In addition the Blues dual registration agreement with Saracens will bring to Goldington Road nine players including centre Duncan Taylor, prop Mako Vunipola, flankers Jackson Wray and Will Fraser and full back Ben Ransom. Familiar names at Bedford have travelling in the opposite direction and left the club, among them Nico Steenkamp, Jamie Lennard and Hadre Schmidt.
In 2011/12 Moseley and Bedford met twice with the following results:
Saturday 19th November Bedford 37 – 24 Moseley
Saturday 18th February Moseley 15 – 24 Bedford
Indeed we need to go back to 2006 for Bedford’s last defeat in this fixture when a home win was achieved in Moseley’s first season back in the then National Division 1. This will be a disappointing record which the current Moseley squad will be keen to address.
In the run up to the new season Bedford faced something of a mixed bag of challenges. A tough game against Saracens losing 12 – 24 was followed by an inconclusive 78 – 10 win over a significantly under strength Cardiff team. This was then followed up by a comprehensive 77 – 5 win over National One team Cambridge. Bedford will certainly enter Saturday’s game confident in an ability to score points!
And as for Moseley? The pre-season can be judged to have met the objectives of the coaching team. A high scoring close encounter at Bedwas when both clubs used over thirty players in various combinations was a useful exercise to determine the relative merits of many new signings in a hugely revamped squad. The following week, a win by the possible starting line up over a strong Aberavon side was very heartening. To then go to Franklins Gardens and run a Northampton team close will have instilled confidence in the players.
Moseley will be looking to build upon the positives; the speed with which the players in the new look pack have gelled, some excellent place kicking and the cutting edge of the backs, while working on strengthening such areas as the lineout and defensive lines.
For many of the team this will be their first chance to impress in Moseley colours in a Championship game. With a long season ahead it will be interesting to see who will be first to stake a claim to a regular starting XV spot. With the new talent drafted into the squad none of last season’s regulars will be able to rest on past performances.
As always with these two teams we can be assured of a hard fought, entertaining game on Saturday. At least a mid table finish 22 games on. Why not? The players in this season’s squad have the talent; now let’s get behind them.
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