Match Preview - by Glyn Barlow
And so the curtain comes down on the 2012/13 Championship season with Bedford Blues the welcome visitors to Billesley Common.
It is with some relief following last Saturdays game in Yorkshire that Moseley take to the pitch safe in the knowledge that they will be playing in the Championship again next season. The bonus point loss to Rotherham ensured they remained 11 points clear of Doncaster who can now only secure a maximum ten points from their remaining two games (As this preview is being written prior to Doncaster’s visit to Moseley’s next opponents Bedford on Wednesday please excuse any changes to status of the two teams over the next few days).
You can be sure that the team would have liked to have cemented their status with a win last week but unfortunately, due to a number of factors it was not to be, ending as another “what might have been” game.
Following the previous week’s impressive comeback against Leeds and the first 15 minutes of Saturday’s game when Moseley went 10 points ahead most supporters will have been excused for thinking we were in for a convincing victory. Unfortunately Moseley endured a lineout performance that harked back to the problems of early season, were sucked into a forward orientated encounter favouring the big Rotherham pack, and were poor in adjusting to the small pitch. This was coupled with falling foul to the referee’s interpretation of various aspects of forward play, not least the unprecedented awarding of a penalty try for a first scrum offence near the try line to leave them close, but not quite there.
Despite this Moseley showed some moments of real ability in the well worked tries scored, one in particular stemming from quick ball from a rare good lineout. On the whole the back line looked sharp, but they were unable to enjoy enough quality ball to capitalise on. Up front Sam Dickenson put in another dynamic shift gaining the hard yards with ball in hand.
Impressive during the match was the return of Ben Pienaar, off the bench just four weeks after an operation on a fractured eye socket. A well taken try was suitable reward for his desire to play again before the season was out.
So will this Saturday’s game be a bit of an anti-climax? Not a chance. Moseley will be keen to consolidate their position in the league, with Jersey still breathing down their necks only 2 points behind. There is also still a chance to challenge Plymouth (who travel to Doncaster) for 9th place and a more respectable outcome to the season.
For our opponents Bedford there is still potentially all to play for. Currently sitting in 5th place prior to Wednesday’s game with Doncaster, Bedford will be looking to take the all-important step into the top four and reach the semi-final play offs. On equal points with Bristol and with a game in hand they have a good opportunity to do so, particularly as Bristol face a trip to a Newcastle team keen to maintain their 100% record.
For Bedford 4th place will not be good enough. Two wins in their last 2 games could see them take 3rd place, and potentially avoid facing the Falcons in the semi-finals. Expect them to come here with 5 points on their minds.
Since Christmas Bedford have enjoyed an impressive win away at the Cornish Pirates with close victories over Jersey and Plymouth being tempered with losses to Bristol and Nottingham. Notably Bedford came close to being the first team to defeat Newcastle in March where they lost by just two points at Kingston Park. In addition a good run in the B&I cup with a quarter final win over Llanelli sees them face Newcastle in the semi-finals on the 27th.
Key players that Moseley will have to pay particular attention to will include the dual threat of departing wingers Josh Bassett (off to Premiership side Wasps) scorer of 11 tries and James Stephenson (Joining Worcester) who has bagged 7. The pack has not been backward in crossing the try line either with hooker Neil Cochrane, a former flanker, collecting 9 to date. An important player missing from Bedford’s line up though will be fly half and prolific goal kicker James Pritchard who sustained a broken arm in early March.
If Moseley need further motivation to give their all one last time they only need look back to the first game of the season, when the new squad with so many young players , inexperienced at this level, took to the field and were mercilessly beaten 50 – 6. It may be many of the same faces taking to the field on Saturday but make no mistake these are very different men than the ones who stepped on the pitch back in September. The likes of Buster Lawrence, Ollie Robinson and Addison Lockley have rapidly learnt what it takes to compete in the Championship and have performed far better than most expected.
With nothing to lose on Saturday the pressure is off so the team can look to play a more expansive game, similar to that last hour of the Leeds match. It’s about time we saw a Moseley 4 try bonus point at Billesley.
For some in the squad this Saturday will be their last outing in Red and Black as they move on to other clubs. Lets’ hope they take the opportunity to go out on a high, and for those who will be with us next season that they finish on a positive note as they look to build for 2013/14.
Enjoy a rest after 5.00pm on Saturday guys; you have earned it after a tough campaign.
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