Big Match Preview
by Glyn Barlow
This week we follow up the fine victory over an ex Premiership team in the form of Bristol with the visit to Billesley of another, of an even more recent vintage, as Newcastle Falcons make the long trip to the Midlands in the resurrection of a fixture last seen in the 1990’s.
For Moseley’s playing staff and supporters Saturday’s game represents one of those exciting opportunities to assess the progress of Moseley as a club against true top level opposition.
It is hardly worth repeating the story of how the Newcastle club finds itself playing in the Championship, so well publicised was the closed season farce, suffice to say two things. Throughout the whole “will they, won’t they let London Welsh in?” debate Newcastle kept a very professional position and accepted the position. All credit to the club. However due to Newcastle being led to believe a reprieve from relegation would be forthcoming a squad to challenge in the Premiership had already assembled, and it is this impressive squad that the new look Moseley team must face.
Familiar names in the Newcastle squad include Scotland stalwart 48 cap back row Ally Hogg. The Scottish flavour of the team is blended with a distinct New Zealand approach to play in the form of fly half / full back Jimmy Gopperth, twice winner of the Premiership Golden Boot Award, who scored 270 points in 27 games last season.
In addition Newcastle’s new Director of Rugby, Dean Richards has supplemented his squad by the addition of a number of new players including England U21 Centre Alex Crockett from Worcester, Tongan Centre Tane Tu’ipulotu and ex Moseley scrum half Jordi Pasqualin. Further “Scottishness” has been brought to the club in the (large) shape of second row Scott McLeod and Gloucester scrum half Rory Lawson.
Newcastle Rugby Club can trace its roots back to the formation of Gosforth Football Club in 1877, arguably though it was during the 1970’s that Gosforth attained its highest status in English rugby winning the John Player Cup in 1976 and 1977. Players such as Roger Uttley and Peter Dixon took Gosforth’s success on to an international stage.
In 1990 the club moved to a new ground at Kingston Park and changed its name to Newcastle Gosforth. With the onset of professionalism in the mid 1990’s the club was purchased by Newcastle United (football) Chairman John Hall who was at the forefront of revolutionising the game - many old rugby people would say to its detriment.
Hall set forth on a major rebuilding programme bringing in from Wasps England fly half Rob Andrew as player /DOR and Dean Ryan as captain plus other significant signings in All Black Inga Tuigamala, Scotland’s Gary Armstrong and Doddie Weir, and England flyer Tony Underwood.
The club changed its name in 1996 to Newcastle Falcons and lifted the Premiership trophy in 1998. Unfortunately for Newcastle the success of those early seasons has not been emulated. Rob Andrew became the DOR there after his playing career finished and he moved to the RFU.
So far this season the Falcons have made the expected strong start to this season’s campaign with a clean sweep of wins during September. A strong attack has been reflected in the side’s lowest score to date being a still impressive 25 points against the Cornish Pirates. Last Friday Newcastle took apart Leeds at Kingston Park scoring seven tries in the process.
A daunting prospect for Moseley? Possibly, but last week’s trip to Bristol will have done wonders for the player’s belief in their own abilities. To have battled back from 21 – 5 down, with 20 minutes to go, in front of 4,000 partisan Bristol fans cannot be underestimated as a statement of the determination and intent from the team.
In this game we finally saw what Kevin Maggs has seen from the time he started to sign players for this season - a Moseley team capable of scoring tries from anywhere on the pitch. The performance at fly half by Glyn Hughes was one that the Moseley faithful have been waiting a number of seasons to witness in Red and Black, and this set free the players outside him.
This week we have the prospect of some fascinating match ups in the back line; two uncompromising centres in Greg King against Alex Crockett, flying wing Luke Fielden takes on Moseley’s magician Simon Hunt and Junior All Black Tane Tu’ipulotu trying to contain top try scorer Charlie Hayter. The prospects look good for some high quality back play.
The key to this game will almost certainly lie in the forward battle. With two sets of try scoring backs on display whichever pack delivers the most good ball will win the game. Here we have a very interesting contrast in the two teams. Newcastle will be calling on an experienced set of forwards, potentially having 130 International caps between them, while Moseley will be looking to the relatively youthful pack that delivered the goods in Bristol. Coach Dave Hilton will be again asking for big games from Addison Lockley and Buster Lawrence in the second row along with a need for the back row to dominate the breakdown area.
An area Moseley needs to look to improve on is to ensure that yellow cards are not a feature of this week’s performance. Arguably the team made last week’s game harder than necessary by playing shorthanded. The fine line between commitment and overstepping the mark has to be addressed, particularly in the area of the tackle.
Most pleasing for Moseley last week was the fact that the Bristol game can again be seen as another step forward in the squad’s development. How many more steps can be taken? Let’s hope we see one more of them against Newcastle.
This is certainly a David v Goliath match in terms of funding as Newcastle has had the financial benefit at least of the Premiership parachute payment. A tough challenge? Yes. Impossible? Well nothings impossible! Even if the odds are stacked highly against Moseley, there will certainly be no lack of commitment from the home side and some entertaining rugby is surely in store.
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