Match Preview - by Glyn Barlow
This Friday we welcome Bristol to Billesley Common for the Championship fixture re-arranged from February.
For Moseley this represents home game number two in March’s quartet and a further opportunity to open up some daylight between them and the bottom of the league.
This will, however, be no easy challenge as Bristol currently occupy fifth place in the league and are pushing hard for a playoff berth. Added to that they have the incentive of avenging the 21 – 22 home defeat Moseley inflicted on them in September.
In recent weeks Bristol have had mixed luck in their assault on the top losing 19 – 23 home to Nottingham but winning away 18 – 6 to Bedford. Clearly for a club of Bristol’s ambitions this is not a situation to be totally happy with. To counter this they have moved to strengthen the squad with Worcester Warriors utility back Andy Short signed on loan, prior to a permanent move to Bristol at the end of the season.
This signing was, however, overshadowed considerably by Bristol securing the services of ex England & Scotland Head Coach Andy Robinson as Director of Rugby (Ollie must be relieved his Dad is back in gainful employment again rather than hanging around Billesley hoping to blag a pint off him after the game!). This coup plus lining up the likes of Premiership players Nicky Robinson from Wasps and Gloucester’s Peter Buxton for next season gives a clear view of where Bristol want to be.
Without wishing to spoil Bristol’s plans this game is equally important to Moseley in terms of league ambitions. Currently standing two places and seven points above Doncaster, with one game in hand, Moseley would benefit from earning the points needed for security earlier rather than later, thus allowing the coaching team more time to sign up the squad for next season. With the team, and particularly its young contingent, now finding their feet in the Championship the prospects are good for taking the nucleus of players forward to next season, with the opportunity to build on what they have learnt, creating a real impact in the league. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves there is still a job to be done this week.
In order to be successful Moseley will need to start by containing a Bristol backline which includes the dual threat of former Falcons centre Luke Eves and flying winger George Watkins who have both featured prominently on the try scoring front this season. Eaves and Watkins will be part of a back line that includes centre Fautua Otto and New Zealand Maori scrum half Ruki Tipuna attacking threats in their own right.
The best way to keep them quiet will be to starve them of possession and it is on this front that we may have a battle royal to witness. Bristol will be calling on the likes of Argentinian internationals tight head prop Gaston Cortes and second row Mariano Sambucetti, Samoan international No8 Alafoti Faosiliva, lock Roy Winters and back row Redford Pennycook (brother of ex Moseley player Chevvy) to front up to a Moseley pack that has been improving every week since the turn of the year.
Moseley will also be aware of the goal kicking threat of ex Moseley fly half Tristan Roberts and will be well advised to ensure they play the game deep in Bristol territory, via some precise tactical kicking, relying on their sound defence rather than any 50:50 transgressions at the breakdown to secure turnover ball.
The Moseley squad will be keen to build upon a very competent and committed performance in Cornwall last Sunday. Not many teams come away from The Mennaye so near to victory and certainly no Moseley team of recent seasons. Also the three point spread between the teams over the two games this season highlights the real ability of the squad which has all too infrequently been reflected in terms of results.
This week Moseley need to continue with the approach that saw them build a platform up front against the Pirates supplying the back line with vial quality possession. If anything it is how that possession is used that Moseley must address. At this level of intensity in matches every opportunity counts and the team must ensure promising moves are finished off with points.
There is a real chance for the team to secure a win this week, lifting themselves further away from the bottom two and hauling in Plymouth who stand only five points ahead of them, having played one game more. It doesn’t get more exciting than this.
It would be inappropriate to finish this match preview without acknowledging the support I received each week from Alan Adam who sadly passed away last Sunday. Taking on the responsibility of writing previews, following the great ones produced by Joe Heaton and Peter Woodroofe in previous seasons, was quite a daunting prospect. Alan was always the first to offer his encouragement, guidance and vast knowledge of all things Moseley. I shall miss his input and friendship.
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