1st XV Match Preview V Esher (A) Sat 22/04/2017 

by Glyn Barlow

This weekend Birmingham Moseley make their last away trip of the season when they travel to Surrey to take on familiar opponents in Esher. Prior to this season the two teams met on twelve occasions in the Championship with Moseley winning three quarters of the encounters.

Earlier this season on a rain soaked December day at Billesley Common the men in red and black continued their winning ways with a 24-6 victory. The result was very much down to Birmingham Moseley’s pack stepping up and pressurising their opponents, underlined by Esher conceding a penalty try from a driving maul. It’s probably fair to say both teams left the fields with some frustrations, Esher from knowing that the conditions, hampering expansive play, didn’t favour them and Birmingham Moseley that they failed to capitalise on the forward platform enough to collect a try bonus point.

The early part of 2017 hasn’t been kind to Esher with just wins over Fylde, Hull Ionians and Cambridge to show for their endeavours until three weeks ago. And then it all changed. As part of the change Esher drafted in big hitting Tongan International back row Chris Hala’ufia and whether his introduction is just coincidental or not their fortunes immediately turned around.

Three wins on the trot against Old Albanian 19-65, Darlington Mowden Park 50-33 and Loughborough Students 37-38 have now revitalised Esher’s season and they will be looking to continue the good form on Saturday. Those results see Esher now standing in 11th place in the league, just a bonus point win away from a very creditable eight place, so we can be sure they have plenty of motivation.

With just two games to go Birmingham Moseley will be aiming at a third place finish in the league so a win is essential this weekend. Two weeks ago in their last match the team went down 14-32 to league leaders Hartpury. The result would have been much closer if a yellow card to Ed Sheldon had not resulted in Hartpury scoring three tries while he was off the field.

Hopefully the Easter break has allowed time for the injury crisis to resolve that saw back row Jack Preece start the game at centre, only to be injured forcing number 8 Chris Brightwell into the backline, along with scrum half Dave Brazier substituted onto the wing.

To beat Esher Birmingham Moseley will need to shut down the try scoring exploits of scrum half Andrew Garner and wing Tom James who have notched up 23 between them on a team that has 101 to their credit. As with the last encounter a strong performance up front will be vital to starve the talented Esher backline of ball. It Birmingham Moseley can achieve this and follow it up with unleashing their own strike runners then they may well return with another win to their credit.