1st XV Match Preview V Rotherham Titans (h) Sat 01/12/2012 

Match Preview - by Glyn Barlow

 

Depending on your viewpoint this weekend brings either the first day of Advent or the end of the first half of this season’s Championship campaign. And for most associated with Moseley it will be a festive welcome to one, but a relieved goodbye to the other.

 

Last weekend delivered another dose of hope and disappointment.  Moseley travelled to London Scottish, having already won at the Athletic Ground in the B&I Cup only a few weeks ago, with a belief that another win was achievable.  And it nearly was. Again! As has so often been the case a slow start, allowing the opposition to collect points, has been followed by a second half charge to the line. Unfortunately the recovery was not to be. To add injury to insult Craig Voisey proved lightning does strike twice being the unlucky recipient of a broken arm in a repeat of the injury which curtailed his involvement last season.

 

This weekend we welcome to Billesley, Rotherham a team currently two places and ten points above Moseley in the league. Following a very encouraging start to the Championship campaign the Yorkshiremen have suffered three losses in their last four games with the only win coming at home to bottom placed Doncaster.

 

During the run up to the season Rotherham recruited a number of new players, including building up what is probably one of the largest packs in the Championship. New recruits familiar to Moseley supporters will be Dan Sanderson and Marshall Gadd, from last season’s Billesley squad. They are joined by Doncaster back row Latu Makaafi, prop Gareth Denman from Leeds and Leinster A No 8 Michael Noone. Another familiar face in the Titans squad is full back Ed Styles who made 19 appearances for Moseley in the 2010/11 season. It’s fair to say that Rotherham are not an entirely unknown entity to Moseley’s management with Kevin Maggs having joined the club from his role as player/ backs coach of the Clifton land outfit. Kevin as joined at Billesley by other ex-Rotherham players Anthony Carter, Brad Hunt and Craig Voisey.

 

This season the Rotherham side has proved adept at scoring tries, having a haul of 21 to date via amongst others hooker Ted Stagg (4), No 8 Alex Rieder (3), centre Eamonn Sheridan (3) and winger Peter Homan (3).

 

Rotherham Rugby Club was founded in 1923, and following mixed fortunes in its early years entered the leagues in 1987 with an intent of rising to the highest levels of English rugby. This was achieved in 2000, although the club only lasted one season in the Premiership. In 2002 Rotherham again topped National Division 1, but was controversially denied promotion on the pretext that the new Premiership ground requirements had not been met.  Happily in 2003, this was resolved and the club achieved promotion after winning the league.  

 

2003/4 was a season of change when “Rotherham” was dropped from the club’s name and it became “Earth Titans” as part of a sponsorship deal. The name change did not improve playing performances however as the team lost every game, and relegation and financial difficulties beckoned. In subsequent seasons the Yorkshiremen have struggled to impose their past dominance on the league, finding it difficult to rise above the bottom half of the standings, apart from a brief success in 2006/7 when they finished second behind Leeds.

 

In an interesting turn of events before Rotherham’s last game, controversial coach Andre Bester left the club to be replaced by ex England second row Alex Codling and Saturday will be his first game in charge. It will be interesting to see how this change affects the Rotherham game plan.

 

Last season the two clubs met twice with Rotherham winning both.

 

Saturday 22nd Oct

Moseley

8 – 36

Rotherham

Saturday 14th Jan

Rotherham

40 – 31

Moseley

 

But what of Moseley? The big Rotherham pack will surely provide one of the toughest tests which the young Moseley forwards will face all season. Can they handle it? The answer probably lies in how the game is managed. An arm wrestle with the Titans pack at quarters close is unlikely to yield many points. However if the team can play a more dynamic game, move the ball around the field, and ensure Rotherham get few set piece opportunities in the Moseley half then the opposition can be worn down. Key to this will be an outstanding performance from the back row forwards who must be first to the breakdown, either securing their own ball for quick distribution or pressuring the Rotherham backs for turnover ball.

 

Another contributing factor to success will be the kicking game. If Moseley can avoid aimless kicks up field, and instead use pinpoint strikes, causing the Titans to keep backtracking, pressure can be exerted on the Rotherham defence. Kicking long and to the corners may be an effective tactic when trying to clear lines, but let’s hope the players have the belief in themselves to back their own attacking abilities and take opportunities of running with ball in hand when the opportunities arise.

 

The welcome return of Greg King, renewing his partnership with Championship XV star Charlie Hayter should provide a real cutting edge in midfield, allowing the Moseley back three to then feed off their breaks. Glyn Hughes needs to ensure he brings this talented pairing into the game at every opportunity. Keep the attacking pressure on and tries will come.

 

We have waited too long to witness the undoubted talents of the Moseley back line, if the game can be played at an intense pace from the off we just might see what Kevin Maggs has envisaged from the start of the season.