by Glyn Barlow
The waiting is over as the 2017/18 National One season commences this Saturday with the visit of Ampthill to Billesley Common, in what could already be one of the defining games of the season.
Last season Ampthill finished in third place, two above Birmingham Moseley, having won 22 of their 30 games, two more than the men in red and black. When you consider that Birmingham Moseley suffered two losses to Ampthill then you can see how those games could be seen to be a key part of the season for both clubs. Away at Ampthill the team suffered a 26-8 loss in October. This was followed up with an 18-35 defeat at home in January, a result that saw the team lose their second place in the league, a position they never managed to recover.
This season Ampthill’s pre-season campaign has included a 15-38 win over National 2 South Henley Hawks, a 29-11 victory over Welsh Premiership side Newport and a heavy 10 try loss to our old Championship friends Nottingham 64-14. To add injury to insult they lost centre Will Goodge and prop Matt Collins to significant injuries during the defeat.
In preparation for the new season Ampthill have made a number of significant signings including prop Karl Garside & hooker Josh Taylor from Old Albanian, Wales U20 back row Syd Blackmore from Bath, Bedford prop Jack Culverhouse, fly half Lawrence Raynor from Nottingham, Cambridge scrum half Stefan Liebenberg, England U20 second row Simon Pitfield & fly half Josh Sharp from Loughborough and second row Alex Woolford from London Scottish. Supporters will remember Alex made 11 appearances for Moseley when on dual registration from Northampton.
Perhaps the most significant signing, and statement of intent, from the club was the capture of James Pritchard from Coventry. Canadian international Pritchard brings a wealth of experience to the club including four World Cup campaigns and became record points scorer for Bedford with 2,883 during his time there.
For Birmingham Moseley pre-season has built well following a close 14-12 loss at Neath the team surprised everyone, except perhaps themselves, with a commanding 24-15 win over Worcester Warriors, outscoring the Premiership outfit by three tries to two. It was the nature of the performance that was more impressive than the score with the team taking the edge in the forwards, including a perfect 16 from 16 lineouts, and demonstrating a very astute tactical game. Plenty of pointers towards a very different approach to the season compared to the tactics of previous seasons. The training game with Stourbridge allowed the coaching team a chance to give more game time to newer squad members and trial players with an overall score from the 60 min “full” game(19-21) and 20 min attack & defence game(20-10) of 39-31.
We wait in anticipation to see if the indications of pre-season lead to a new and exciting dawn for the team under Richard Protherough & Simon Cross.
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