As Moseley head to Nottingham tomorrow looking to take another step towards a highest ever finish in the 12-team Championship, a few of their number may spend part of the coach journey recalling one of the greatest days in the club’s history.
Exactly five years ago, April 18, 2009, the Red and Blacks travelled the other way down the M1, to Twickenham where they had been invited to attend Leeds Carnegie’s league and cup double coronation.
At least that’s what even their most ardent followers thought. It would be nice to return to HQ to relive the happy days of the 1970s and 80s, when a trip to Twickers was de rigueur, but no-one really expected them to upset the bandwagon of a side that had already secured promotion to the Premiership.
Leeds sent out a side stuffed with Premiership experience and a pack of forwards who had played, or would go on to, at international level. Props Juan Gomez and Mike McDonald, of Argentina and America respectively, fronted back five men Erik Lund, Calum Clark, Hendre Fourie and Rhys Oakley. For Mose it was mission impossible.
But the underdogs were privately confident. Buoyed by their double-header league and cup semi-final win over Exeter, when their defence and competitiveness at the breakdown destroyed the Chiefs and led to the departure of Peter Drewett three days later, Ian Smith’s team went south as much in expectation as hope.
Indeed Smith was lucky to be allowed on the bus. The head coach was on holiday when Don Caskie came up with the master-plan to upset Exeter, although Smith reliably informed anyone who’d listen the two facts were not related.
For Moseley it was more of the same, harem scarem stuff, turning defence into attack in the blink of an eye, making their tackles and taking their chances. And wouldn’t you know it, lightning struck again.
Moseley’s gnarled pack and quicksilver Kingsholm-backs were too hot to handle. Led from the front by man-of-the-match Adam Caves everyone played as if his life depended on it.
Tristan Roberts and Alberto Di Bernardo exchanged penalties before Dan Norton produced the kick-and -chase try that had been Moseley’s trademark that year.
And when Old Father Time, record appearance holder Andy Binns, marked his one of his final Moseley games with a burst over the line and another Roberts penalty made it 20-6, the die had been cast.
McDonald nudged his way over in the second half but Ollie Thomas, off the bench at full back, landed the drop goal that made the game safe and Moseley held on for a 23-18 victory and a red letter day.
The charmless Neil Back mumbled something about Moseley having one cup final and Leeds having 20-odd, but that only made triumph taste all the more sweet. Caves lovingly clutched his bottle of bubbly, Binns wondered where it all went right and the undemonstrative Smith and Caskie had the content look of men who’d just worked out a particularly tricky piece of self-assembly furniture. The supporters returned to Billesley Common where the EDF Energy National Trophy still sits proudly behind the bar.
Indeed some of the players who won it still spend more time in the Billesley Common clubhouse than they arguably should. Caves, Thomas and Neil Mason are still part of the furniture, all three will probably play some part at Meadow Lane tomorrow night.
The team that takes on Nottingham will, in many ways, be a product of the one which won the cup, a conglomeration of home-owned players, some full-time most part-time, underpinned with a smattering of dual registered youngsters.
It is a model that has served cash-strapped Moseley well. Unable to finance a full squad of their own dual registration has been a lifeline for Smith and now Kevin Maggs.
Where Smith relied on explosive attackers from Gloucester, Maggs has cut the same-sized cake differently. Northampton now provide front-row ballast and, at times over the last couple of seasons, highly gifted fly halves learning their trade.
But what binds them is the recognition that Moseley still has much to offer any young player, exposure to Championship rugby is a sought-after commodity they can still offer for at least one more season.
Where are they now – Binns: Retired from rugby, teaching in Wednesbury; Trinder: Plays for Gloucester, Adams: at Cinderford, Reay: plays for London Scottish, Norton: England Sevens star; Roberts: bit-part at Bristol, Taylor: retired, coaches Old Sils and teaches in Cheltenham; Nathan Williams: Dragons, Caves: Moseley, Sigley: Dijon, Muldowney: Connacht, Stott: retired, policeman lives near Peterborough, Mason: Moseley, Bignell: runs PT business, Bristol, not playing, Rodwell: England Sevens. Reps – Thomas: Moseley, Arnold: at Fylde, Pasqualin: London Scottish, Dan Williams: Plymouth Albion.