The Big Match Preview - by Glyn Barlow
“Déjà vu - all over again!”
It’s with a certain amount of Déjà vu that we start this weekend’s Big Match Preview, and with good reason as Moseley and Esher will face each other for the second time in eight days on Saturday.
For Moseley last week it was a case of phase one complete, now on to phase two of securing survival in the Championship by obtaining the one more win which would surely secure it. For Esher it was another nail in the coffin of National One rugby next season.
Esher’s six points in Pool C compare with fifteen, fifteen and fourteen respectively for Moseley,Plymouth and London Scottish. Therefore the nine, nine and eight point deficit against the other teams in the group means that as a minimum Esher must win at least two of its remaining games while hoping that one of the opponents does not acquire any more points. More realistically the Surrey men must beat us on Saturday to have any chance of survival in the second tier.
Interestingly, if Esher does beat Albion or Scottish and finishes with equal points at the bottom, Esher would stay up as having scored more wins against those two clubs during the season. Moseley however has now beaten Saturday’s opponents three times already this season. In Esher’s favour is that two of the club’s remaining three fixtures are at home.
The bottom line is a win for Moseley this Saturday which would in essence secure Championship status while an Esher loss would almost certainly result in relegation. Esher must therefore win and the club’s whole season will come down to this match which will inevitably be extremely tense. If you could bottle this pressure you could run the Flying Scotsman for a year (young readers ask your Dad).
Based on last week’s performance the Moseley players may be feeling rightly satisfied in a job well done. They must not, however, rest on past achievements. It is inconceivable that Esher will not make a better challenge of it at their ground, in front of home supporters, with nothing to lose by throwing everything at Moseley.
That’s not to say Moseley need to change a successful game plan, just more of the same, but for a full 80 minutes this time and perhaps stepping up the intensity that bit more. One of the marked changes last week was that the team came out with all guns blazing from the first whistle. The pack took the fight to an Esher eight who had no answer to the level of physicality. Although it’s totally unfair to single out any players from this performance, we will. David Lyons proved to be a sure source of go forward ball. The back row pace of Ellery, Pons and Mason ensured good secure ball in attack and Colin Quigley had probably his best game in a red and black shirt.
Across the backline Moseley showed that the cutting edge was there to be called on when necessary and a well organised defence stifled a potentially threatening Esher attack. If any criticism could be levelled is that the team seemed to hold back in the last quarter, when the win was secure, rather than continuing to push for the fourth try and a bonus point.
During the build-up to this week’s game Esher coach Mike Schmid will be warning his players that they cannot play with the seeming lack of intensity that was on display at Billesley Common. Schmid rightly points out that all is not lost, as Moseley proved two seasons ago after losing the first three games in the 2010 playoffs. Although his job will be made harder by the fact that a number of Esher’s players duel registered with Harlequins may not be made available due to the needs of the parent club.
The challenge for coaches Maggs and West is that by now, having already met three times this season, the Esher coaches should know what to expect and be aligning their game plan accordingly. There will be a need to make sure the players go out on the pitch with the approach of varying attack from different areas of the field to keep Esher off balance. Ensuring Esher cannot get quality ball into the hands of such players as winger Seb Stegmann will be the order of the day. That elusive eighty minute performance must be the aim for every player this week. Anything less and Esher could easily take the win.
The tactical intelligence that has seen Moseley playing the game in the oppositions half, patiently recycling the ball until an opportunity presents itself rather than trying to force plays, will again yield points; if not from tries then from the unerring boot of Ollie Thomas who has seemed incapable of missing lately.
An Esher relegation would be sad for many people as Moseley has a close relation with the club. In fact Esher and Moseley have represented each other at Championship meetings in the past. However Moseley’s own survival is the prime importance and a win must be the unequivocal objective on Saturday. It would be good for all concerned at Billesley Common if the players can put the relegation fight to bed this week and attention can be turned to strengthening the squad, with its undoubted talents, for the 2012/13 season.
The players defiantly have the skills to succeed on Saturday which now seems to be matched with a hunger to win. Let’s hope they produce the result we all want.
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