1st XV Match Preview V Plymouth Albion (h) Sat 26/04/2014 

by Glyn Barlow

This Saturday Moseley welcome Plymouth Albion to Billesley Common for the last game of the 2013/14 season, in what should be a thrilling game between two evenly matched teams.

Indeed since February the clubs have been locked in a race for the 7th spot in the league, currently occupied by Moseley. Of the two Moseley have won more games (8 to 6) but Plymouth have managed to keep in touch by virtue of having secured seven more bonus points during the season.

With just one point separating the clubs this weekend’s game will finally decide who “tops” the second half of the league, although we cannot discount Bedford from that equation as they currently stand three points behind Moseley with a game against Jersey as their last fixture.

Last weekend Plymouth just failed to finish their home campaign with a win when they saw bottom place Ealing steal the game in the last minute of play, a result which saw the Londoners rise off the bottom of the league for the first time this season.

The Ealing game was the latest in a run of disappointing results for Plymouth which included losses to Leeds, Pirates, Rotherham, Jersey and a further defeat to Leeds in the B&I cup quarter final.

In a frustrating season for Albion there have been some exceptional moments though including a 36 – 15 win over London Welsh, running Leeds to a one point loss in January and an opening weekend 41 – 27 win over Jersey.

From a playing perspective wing Tom Bowen has led the way to the try line with an impressive 14 to date while summer signing Declan Cusack at fly half has proved to be just as adept at scoring with the boot, currently standing sixth in the league’s top point’s scorers.

If selected, this weekend will see the final game of Plymouth stalwart and Canadian International Sean-Michael Stephen who has decided to retire from professional rugby. After six seasons at Brickfields, the three times player of the season has played 136 games for the club, a rarity in the professional era.

The last time the two teams met was way back in September when Moseley underwent one of their now almost trademark slow starts followed by a rousing second half come back to secure a 34 all draw courtesy of tries in the last ten minutes from Anthony Carter and Matt Williams.

Last weekend for Moseley the old saying “lightning doesn’t strike twice” unfortunately didn’t apply at Meadow Lane, where in almost a carbon copy of the previous week’s game against Bristol the team allowed Nottingham a 26 – 5 half time head start before they started to play some imposing rugby in the second half.

As much as Moseley had a slow start Nottingham came out with real purpose due to the spectre of relegation still, mathematically at least, hanging over their heads and they proved adept in finding opportunities to exploit any defensive errors.

The comeback, when it started, was impressive. Spearheaded by the almost usual Matt Williams try from deep the team showed good attacking poise, a break from Mike Penn to put Will Owen in for an excellent score was then followed by a sublime cross field kick and catch from Ollie Thomas and Simon Hunt in tandem.

Unfortunately in the dying minutes a series of lineouts close to the line came to nought as a stolen ball allowed Nottingham to clear the pressure.

This weekend Moseley have the opportunity to end on a high, and secure their best finish to a Championship campaign. As is the nature of player movements nowadays a number of the team may be appearing in their last game in red and black, so let’s hope they exit with heads held high and no regrets that the team didn’t deliver all they could one last time.

There is no room for complacency on Saturday, we can be sure that Albion will want that seventh spot just as much. So it’s all to play for between 7th & 9th place as we look forward to a fitting end to an exciting Championship season at Billesley.