by Glyn Barlow
This weekend we have our first return fixture of the season, and what a fixture it is, as we visit our old friends Coventry for the recommencement of the “festive” local derby.
Not quite the traditional Boxing Day game, this is still sure to be a Christmas cracker following Birmingham Moseley’s hard fought 19-14 win at Billesley in September.
To reflect on the last time the two teams met at the Butts we need to go back to 2010 when both teams were part of the dreaded Championship playoffs. On that occasion Coventry were victorious 6-3 in a game that was perhaps more for the purists than those looking for a spectacle. Two weeks later the result was reversed when Moseley were the winners at the Common 37-5, and Coventry faced relegation.
The last time Moseley won at the Butts was earlier in the 2009/10 season when they just about won another hard fought, and somewhat controversial, game 25-28. Since Moseley were promoted into the Championship the two teams have met on ten occasions with Moseley winning six to Coventry’s four, the win usually going to the home team.
Since the two sides played each other at the start of the season Coventry’s results have been somewhat inconsistent. Big wins such as Macclesfield 61-14, Flyde 53-24, Plymouth 34-33 and Cambridge 55-12 have been tempered by losses to Blackheath 42-5, Esher 34-14, Ampthill 22-8 and Rosslyn Park 33-15. The team currently sits in sixth place thirteen points behind Birmingham Moseley. We can judge potentially how good Coventry can be by the fact that they nearly grounded high flying Hartpury 23-27, their only defeat at home to date.
Last weekend Coventry were run extremely close by Darlington Mowden Park, drawing the fixture 20-20. This result came on the back of a 43-42 home win over Old Albanian the week before, a performance which may have been a contributory factor in the departure of defence coach James Pritchard.
Recently Coventry have strengthened their squad with the addition of back row Freddie Tuilagi from Leicester. Tuilagi joins fellow loan player Owain James from Wasps who leads the teams try scoring exploits with 8.
Birmingham Moseley will be reflecting on last week’s performance with mixed feelings. While the win over Esher was much needed after the trip to Hartpury, you cannot help thinking there was a bonus point left on the pitch at the final whistle. Played in such awful conditions it was always going to be a forwards game, and the men in red and black proved they had the muscle. Unfortunately tactically they didn’t play for territory enough to make it pay.
Undoubtedly this Saturday is one of the biggest games of the season and Coventry will be totally motivated to gain revenge for the early season loss. To win Birmingham Moseley must raise their game considerably from that of recent weeks. If the game at the Common has told us anything it is that Coventry will take to the pitch with an impressive pack, so we are going to need to see a massive shift from the Birmingham Moseley eight to counter. The team needs however to not fall into the trap of thinking a forward challenge is the only way Coventry will come at them. So far this season they have scored one more try than Birmingham Moseley with 62, a large proportion being delivered by a backline who clearly know how to play an expansive game.
It will be an important boost to morale if Birmingham Moseley can close 2016 with a convincing victory, use it as a springboard to prepare for the challenges on the New Year, and provide an early Christmas present to their faithful supporters.
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