BIG MATCH PREVIEW -
by Joe Heaton
THE “CRACKER” BIG MATCH PREVIEW - by Joe
Due to Coventry’s current insolvency there was a real possibility that this traditional Boxing Day fixture would not be played and the supporters of both sides were faced with the prospect of spending a second Christmas holiday indoors with Aunt Agatha! Now that this threat has been removed, let us hope, too, that the ice and snow do relent by the end of the week as forecast to enable the game to go ahead.
With the club in administration, the RFU has allowed Coventry to continue to play its remaining fixtures in The RFU Championship whilst immediately imposing a deduction of fifteen league points. Last Friday evening 1,200 loyal supporters turned up to watch the Blues lose by 12-37 to Cornish Pirates.
It is worthy to note that most of Coventry’s squad has remained loyal and stayed with the club despite the individual financial challenges the Administration has brought. In recent seasons Coventry’s squad has been stiffened by players from overseas, notably fly half Fengata Apikato from Tonga. The team is captained by Arthur Brenton from lock; his vice-captain is full back Ben Russell.
Prior to the RFU’s disciplinary action, the Butts Arena men were close behind Moseley in the Championship league table, but after the points deduction the club sits one place off the bottom in eleventh place just above B’ham/ Solihull, with only seven points. This, however, does not automatically mean relegation at the end of the season, as at the moment no part of the points deduction is carried through to the relegation play offs.
Moseley, too, is not without its challenges, but thankfully these have generally been on the pitch rather than with accountants and lawyers! A run of seven consecutive defeats (five of them in The RFU Championship), and the last two without scoring a try and falling out of the all important top eight, has set the alarm bells ringing. That the match following is away to Plymouth increases the concern especially as the Albion beat top of the table Exeter 23-13 last Saturday,
Moseley’s players have shown on several occasions that they have the ability and experience to merit a top half place in The RFU Championship. The problem has been one of inconsistency and lapses of concentration that have cost the club dearly.
In the corresponding match at Coventry at the beginning of October Moseley won a controversial match 25-28, aided by three penalty tries. Although many impartial observers thought the result fair, the Coventry players will bring with them to Billesley a burning sense of injustice and the Moseley players will have to avoid being caught cold, as they have been in several matches so far this season. Last season Moseley beat Coventry 34-12 at home in September 2008 but lost the Boxing Day fixture away 10-27
Coventry was founded, a year later than Moseley, in 1874. In 1921 the club moved to Coundon Road, well known to generations of Moseley players and supporters, and remained there for eighty-three years until the move to Butts Park Arena in 2004.
On the eve of its Centenary Season in 1973-74 Coventry won the RFU Club Knock-Out competition twice in successive seasons and was rewarded by a fixture against the Barbarians.
Coventry FC was a member of the inaugural First Division in 1987 on the advent of League rugby, although the first season there ended with relegation. Thereafter, apart from one season in the third division, the club has had one of the better sides in the second division, which became National League One on the formation of the Premiership.
Keith Fairbrother, well known to many Moseley men as a robust Coventry and England prop forward in the 1970’s, took charge in 1998 and drew up plans to develop the club in the new millennium and make it fit for the Premiership. The implementation, however, has been hindered throughout by financial problems. At the beginning of the 2006/07 season Fairbrother withdrew and sold the club to Andrew Green who, having done his utmost, had to take the club into administration.
Whatever the recent trials and tribulations of both our great clubs, it will be a pleasure for both committed sets of supporters to be able to witness the revival of one of rugby union’s best derbies on its most traditional Boxing Day date.
It certainly is a ‘big match’ at Billesley on Saturday! Not only because it is a local derby between two of England’s oldest clubs with all the commitment of players and supporters it has always engendered, but also because the two clubs will be playing for the Moseley Trophy resurrected from the Coventry archives when they moved from Coundon Road to the Butts Park Arena.
Fixtures between the two clubs began in 1879 and, early on, were torrid affairs heightened by the Midland Counties Cup games instituted in 1881-82. The two clubs met in the Final in 1884 – before scoring by points was introduced – with Moseley winning. The competition was discontinued in 1922 because it was felt the matches, not just Moseley v Coventry, created acrimony and were no good for the game!
On Boxing Day in 1903 the Coventry v. Moseley match was a rough game for the players - and the spectators joined in too. As a result the RFU set up a committee of enquiry which banned Coventry from playing at home until 1st November 1904.
‘Bad for the game’
The competition was discontinued in 1926 because of the general feeling that Cup ties, in addition to disrupting club fixtures in March and April, created acrimony and did no good for the game.
One pundit wrote: “The ambition of the bigger clubs and the inability of certain teams to behave like gentlemen killed the old Cup.” By then, the clubs had met in seven finals, Coventry winning four and Moseley two, with the 1914 final declared null and void after Coventry had beaten Moseley 13-0, because Coventry had included two players not on their list of men for Cup-ties and Moseley had been late with their list!
Playing for pride
As there were no club competitions in the Midlands after 1926 before the County Cups, motivation was provided by the pride of playing for and supporting your club – so local derbies and games against the Welsh clubs provided additional spice to the fixtures
But when both clubs were in their Golden Age, in the 1970s, there were some wonderful games with many international players gracing The Reddings and Coundon Road. This was especially so for the Boxing Day games which were eagerly awaited and watched by big crowds.
It has never needed any incentives to make the games between the two clubs competitive, but now we have the RFU Cup and National Leagues to add to the equation. Coventry has had the better of the Cup encounters, winning all three games played between the two clubs.
The Mose-Cov fixture has a long tradition and has provided its share of controversy over the years at all playing and official levels. But a supreme moment was at the time of both clubs’ Golden Age when, in 1972, 14 international players, past, present and future, graced The Reddings in a match played before a crowd of 4,000.
Coventry has also won the RFU Cup twice, including 1972-3 when Moseley was defeated Moseley 12-9 in the Second round at The Reddings. Coventry also won the Cup in the following season, but has not reached the final since. Moseley shared the Cup with Gloucester in 1981-2 as well as being losing finalists in 1971-2, the first final, and 1978-9.
The two clubs met in the Cheltenham and Gloucester Cup in November 1997, Moseley winning 36-29 at Coundon Road.
In the League, the overall results are as close as has always been the trend. Prior to Saturday, the 27th League match, Coventry have won 13 and Moseley 13.
The Moseley Trophy
The MOSELEY TROPHY – Moseley v Coventry
In September 2006 the resumption of the Moseley Coventry local derby, after three seasons, proved a splendid occasion for the ‘alickadoos’ of both clubs, It was like a reunion, with plenty of eating, drinking and reminiscing. The Moseley ‘old ‘uns’, were looked after throughout by, amongst others, BRIAN ‘SPIKE’ O’DONNELL, a Coventry, Warwickshire and Midland Counties second-row 1953-59, who had a trial for Ireland.
It was also a pleasure to see 91-year-old HARRY WALKER sat in his ‘special chair’ at the corner of the bar. Arguably the oldest, but definitely one of the oldest surviving England internationals, Harry won nine caps when he was an ever-present in 1947 and 1948. He was part of the WHEATLY, WYMAN, WALKER pack at Coventry, the front row of a renowned pack that were all international or trial players and who played together for about six seasons. Harry was kind enough to say he thought Moseley were the better team on the day.
When Coventry moved from Coundon Road to their fine new Butts Park Arena, they unearthed from their memorabilia a silver Cup on a thick black plinth called the ‘Moseley Trophy’. It appears it had come into existence when Moseley first played Coventry on Boxing Day - well before the Second World War - and commemorated the occasion.
It has certainly not been played for since the War. Harry Walker does not remember it. But thankfully the Trophy has been resurrected and will be played for whenever the two clubs meet henceforth.
The Cup is called the Moseley Trophy. Who instigated it is unclear – a question to be researched…
Harry Knox adds............
Harry Knox on Moseley Coventry in the 50’s and 60’s
Harry played for both sides in the 50s and 60s – in fact he played for both sides twice!
“Back in the 50’s and 60’s, Moseley and Coventry were among the strongest club sides in the country. This, and their close proximity, made matches between the two assume an extra level of ferocity. And when you include the make-up of the respective teams - Moseley a predominately university/profession side and Coventry a local lad/local workplace side the games had even more bite.
I was lucky to have a foot in both camps. In 1958, after leaving Cambridge University, I went to live and work in Coventry. John Herbert, my captain at Cambridge, suggested playing for Moseley as Peter Robbins was captain there.
It was the days before I could afford a car and so I trained at Coventry midweek and took the train to B'ham on Saturdays. If we had an away fixture which meant getting back to B'ham after midnight, I usually ended up sleeping on someone's sofa. I remember John Little being particularly kind, and it was sad to hear of his death earlier this year.
After two years, I think I ran out of sofas and so moved to play for Coventry. Another factor which may have influenced the move was getting married! In those days, ladies were banished from the Reddings bar at 6pm and after each game my wife had to sit in the tea room waiting for my drinking to end.
A move between the two clubs was unprecedented, and yet over the next few years, I was followed by Peter Robbins, Brian Wightman and the Pargetter brothers, Tom and Pancho. Then in 1962, still having lots of friends at Moseley, I rejoined the club for my last season before returning to the North of England.
The links with the North were quite strong, particularly at Coventry. . In 1959/60 Cov had three members in the Durham County side - George Grace, John Moffat and myself, as well as supplying most of the Warwickshire side. At Moseley, the Smallwoods, Charles and Enid, had many links with Durham and were gracious hosts to my wife and me on many occasions.
Anyone who has read Michael Blair’s excellent biography of Peter Robbins - "Life at ONE HUNDRED miles an hour" will realise that life at Moseley was never dull.....and never serious (off the field). I am grateful for my share and still bore my friends with my happy memories”. - Harry Knox
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THE Derby –
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BOXING DAY GAME – “SCHEDULED TO GO AHEAD”
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