by Glyn Barlow
The New Year sees a return to cup action with a trip across the Irish Sea to take on Leinster’ A team (hopefully minus Hannibal & Mr T).
Currently Leinster, the reigning B&I Cup Champions, top Pool 1 with a near faultless 19 out of a possible 20 points from the four games to date. A single point from Friday’s game will guarantee progression to the next phase of the competition.
Sitting in third place Moseley, with no opportunity to go further in the cup, will be looking at the next two weeks as a chance to re-build momentum for the all-important Championship fixtures to come.
No Moseley supporter will have any misguided notion that there are currently any tears being shed at Billesley over the fact that the cup run won’t be extended. The B&I was never a priority for the season over the vital job of league security. Apart from a pleasant opportunity for games against clubs outside England, and a chance for some squad rotation, there is little to commend the competition to most clubs in the Championship.
There are however, a number of positives that can be taken from the opportunity of a couple of cup games. With Ollie Thomas now almost back from injury the game may be an opportunity to re-integrate him in the team. After such a positive start to the season Ollie has been cruelly unlucky to have had such a long layoff and the chance to have him match fit before the vital league game against Jersey will be seized upon. In addition we should see Chris Brightwell back from his extended Christmas break, getting married in New Zealand. Both players were prominent in the last encounter with Leinster, with Ollie scoring all Moseley’s points, so let’s hope they can make a similar impact again.
The Leinster game also gives the team the chance to work the disappointment of the second half against Bristol out of their system. Following a very promising first 40 minutes the team eventually succumbed to a very good Bristol side orchestrated with great flair by Welsh international fly half Nicky Robinson, a player of a skill level you won’t find too often at this level of rugby.
Despite the score line the team showed resolve with a hard working shift from the pack. They must look this week to eliminate penalties as too many were conceded to allow a platform for victory to be built (and the less said about the needless yellow card the better).
But if Bristol was a tough assignment be in no doubt a trip to Leinster will be no easier, and don’t be fooled by the “A” suffix this will be a strong side. The 22 for Friday is likely to be a blend of the Provinces 1st team squad members needing some game time, promising academy youngsters and some of the best of the players from the clubs in the province, with such rich histories as Old Wesley, Lansdowne and Clontarf.
When the two teams met at Billesley in October Leinster squeezed out a victory 22 – 24 thanks to a try in the last 10 minutes from Darragh Fanning. Had Moseley exhibited a tighter defence in that game the result may well have gone in their favour. Since then the team has improved their defensive capabilities significantly and will provide a much sterner task to the men from Ireland.
Let us hope the team do themselves and the club proud and return to Billesley with a morale boosting win under their belts.
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