National League One: Rotherham Titans 47 Moseley 23
It started going wrong when the team biscuit tin was upset on the coach, somewhere on the A42 around Nottingham, and didn’t stop resembling the shape of a pear until nine minutes into injury time when the try that would have given Moseley a bonus point was ruled out for a forward pass. The intervening five hours were horrendous.
Just as the Golden Crunch spewed all over the floor, Ian Smith’s men spent the first 40 minutes of a bitterly cold Yorkshire afternoon spilling everything else they got their cack-hands on. Despite dominating the first period, they somehow went in at the interval trailing 21-8.
It might have been worse had Charlie Sharples not been the only man in Rotherham awake enough to collect Richard Vasey’s kick-off and take it 35 metres to the line with the last play of the period.
Up until that moment Moseley had spent all but a few seconds pounding their way into the teeth of a strong wind closer and closer to the home line only to infringe or knock on when they got into the red zone.
When they allowed Titans off the defensive the hosts sliced their way to three converted tries. It was quite incredible.
With the elements in their favour in the second half and thanks to Sharples’ fifth try of the season, the local cognoscenti aired their concern of a momentum shift after the turnaround.
The only change, however, was that the visitors ceased playing horribly in attack and concentrated their worst efforts in defence as they fell off tackles as though the breeze had knocked them off balance.
By the end Moseley had put together the definitive guide on how not to attack or defend.
“Everything that happened was all down to us,” head coach Smith said. “We talked about how to play against the elements and were doing it OK to some extent but then we lost 10 pieces of possession in one half.
“But to turn around at 21-8 down we felt the scoreline was not insurmountable given the environment we were playing in but we seemed to start chasing the game far too early.
“For some reason we had a period when we imploded and just didn’t stack up in defence. We were fine organisationally but some fingers have to be pointed and questions asked about our physicality. Some people just did not front up.”
To add injury to insult Moseley didn’t just lose this match, they also had to do without their two tighthead props as Terry Sigley injured his shoulder on the half-hour and his replacement George Davis picked up a neck injury.
How those cognoscenti grumbled when referee Andrew Taylorson signalled uncontested scrums.
Their frustrations were understandable from an aesthetic point of view but any suggestion it denied them an area of supremacy was unwarranted. Sigley and Nathan Williams had more than held their own against Stuart Corsar and Ben Prescott. Indeed it was the one area where Mose could claim parity at the very least.
The scoreboard was not one such area. Even though the most committed assaults came from the visitors it was Rotherham who racked up the numbers.
When Ollie Atkinson was turned over in home territory, Ernie Claassens took the ball, chipped to the line and beat Gareth Taylor to the touch down.
Then, halfway through the period, Taylor fumbled a poor off-load by James Rodwell and the next time Mose saw the ball Ryan Burrows had put it over their line and Tom Barlow kicked it between their posts for a second time.
Then came the nadir. Mose were within five metres of their first try when Richie Bignell knocked on and Titans’ full back Mike Whitehead thumped a clearance 80m down-field.
For some reason the resulting lineout was thrown to the back and the wind blew it crooked. Neil Chivers, a failure at Birmingham & Solihull, sniped from the resulting scrum and out-paced the Mose back row.
Barlow made it 21-3 only for Sharples to narrow the deficit.
If that was bad the second period was worse. Smith’s side completely failed to adapt their game to harness the wind. While they should have kicked their opponents back to their line they kept trying to out-flank them.
Meanwhile, Rotherham piled into Moseley as Whitehead, Gregor Hayter, Hugo Horn and Tinus Du Plessis all benefited from powder-puff tackling.
All Mose managed in reply was a short-range effort by Paul Cox and Rodwell’s 78th-minute interception.
Nathan Bressington thought he had salvaged something at the death only for the referee’s assistant to rule Andy Reay had passed forward. It was no more than Moseley deserved.
ROTHERHAM: Whitehead; Feeley, Hunt, Briers (Allen 74), Claassens; Barlow (West 77), Chivers (Erskine 68); Corsar, Conroy (Horn 67), Prescott, Hayter (McGowan 74), Challinor, Burrows, Du Plessis, Skurr (Barnes 67). Replacement: O’Donnell
MOSELEY: Binns (Lavery 69); Sharples (Roberts 70), Cox, Reay, Bressington; Vasey, Taylor (Pasqualin 52); Williams, Caves (Oselton 56), Sigley (Davis 32, Stott 56), Arnold, Evans, Atkinson, Bignell (Whitney 66), Rodwell.
Referee: Mr Andrew Taylorson (RFU)