1st XV Match Preview V Northampton Saints (h) Thu 22/08/2013 

Match Preview - by Glyn Barlow

 

After an impressive win over Newport last Saturday the new look Moseley squad will be looking to rise to the challenge of a visit from Premiership side Northampton Saints this Thursday.

 

Coaches Kevin Maggs and Dave Hilton will have taken a number of positives from Saturday’s game, as much in the nature of the win as the result itself. While it would be madness to be too optimistic at this very early stage in proceedings there were glimmers of the playing style Kevin has long expounded as the way forward for Moseley.

 

One of the most heartening aspects of play was the pace and penetration of the backline, something only glimpsed all too infrequently last season. Mike Penn and Matt Williams look to be a real attacking threat who, if given space and opportunities, will create problems for opposition defences. In Chris Brightwell we now seem to have a number 8 who can rival one of Moseley’s favourite sons James Rodwell for the ability to make long territorial gains (plus a 7’s vision when it comes to finding the try line).

 

It wasn’t all cut and thrust in attack of course. Newport brought a physical set of forwards to Billesley who clearly were determined not to hold back just because this was a pre-season friendly. Fortunately the Moseley pack more than matched them with the new second row partnership of Mike Powell & Cory Hill working well and young colts hooker Jack Lea certainly not overawed by proceedings.

 

Pre-season games give the Management an opportunity to view players on trial in a match intense environment and those appearing on Saturday certainly acquitted themselves admirably. It will be interesting to see who can push forward into the 1st XV squad. With that in mind it is heartening to contemplate that the squad on Saturday was still some way off the probable starting 22 for the first Championship game. When one considers we can still add the likes of Buster Lawrence, Scott Armstrong, Rhys Buckley, Will Hafu and Stefan Thorp to the mix then this could be one of the strongest squads at Billesley for a number of seasons.

 

But let’s not get carried away, we still have the prospect of a game against last season’s Aviva Premiership finalists to contend with. Last season Moseley travelled to Franklin Gardens and put in a very creditable performance eventually losing out 35 – 22. Interestingly the Northampton team that day included our new signings Scott Armstrong and Alex Woolford, plus Tom Hicks, Danny Herriott, Ryan Glynn & Tom Stephenson who all went on to appear for Moseley during the season.

 

Northampton have recruited strongly during the summer, not least in bringing two of the Lions star players George North & Alex Corbisiero to the Gardens. While they will probably both be still recovering from their exploits in Australia we can expect a blend of experience and youth to take to the field on Thursday as Saints look to use this game and their encounter with Edinburgh on Friday as an opportunity to give as many players as possible a run out.

 

As Moseley are now close to finalising who will be available on Dual Registration and Loan agreements from Northampton for the season you can be sure we will see a few more new faces for the 2013/14 Moseley squad on the pitch, we are just not sure yet if they will be in red & black or green & black on Thursday.

 

The tough challenge Saints will provide is just what Moseley needs to prepare them for what will surely be another tough season in the Championship. Going into the game the team will want to step up their defensive efforts further as we can be sure Saints will be looking to run at them with every opportunity. Conceding three tries to Newport will have been something which would have taken some of the edge off the win. The team will be looking to continue the improvements they made in this department during the latter part of last season.

 

Up front the pack will be continuing to adapt to the new scrum engagement law (how positive was it to see a scrum being blown up for crocked feed, when was the last time we saw that happen at Billesley?) and ensuring we have a lineout that doesn’t misfire the way it did at the start of the last campaign.

 

If the pack can secure decent possession and the backs create some space to work in we should be in for an entertaining evening, and may just see a reversal of the result from last season.