EDF ENERGY NATIONAL
Accepting the principle that to whom much is given, of him shall much be required, Tristan Roberts has his work cut out in the coming weeks.
In his first season at level two the 22-year-old fly half has not only been charged with leading Moseley in their battle against relegation, he is also the major player in their attempt to win the EDF Energy National Trophy at Twickenham tomorrow.
The dual registered starlet will take centre stage against Leeds Carnegie where his undoubted running and handling abilities will be given their most severe test yet and where his game-management and goal kicking will be exposed to intense scrutiny.
The latter two are aspects of his game that have broken down at times this season, though it should be noted that has not been the case in recent weeks.
While Gloucester half back has retained his ability to beat a defender and deliver a killer pass, he has become much more consistent with his kicking from hand and floor, as Mose continue to worry the division’s big hitters.
The Maidstone-born youngster was successful with all four of his goal-attempts in last Saturday’s defeat to Bedford and three of five against Leeds the week before. An accuracy percentage of 78 is top notch.
That proves the faith invested in him by coaches Ian Smith and Don Caskie has not been misplaced. A nightmare at Esher aside Roberts’ performances have been on an upward curve and he could yet provide the spark that inspires Moseley to Championship safety.
That would be a magnificent achievement for an inexperienced player in just his second full season of senior rugby. While his first ended in promotion with Cinderford, making sure Mose don’t join them in National Two would be a step up.
And if he could throw a cup winners’ medal into the bargain tomorrow the decision to play him ahead of the more worldly wise Richard Vasey would be completely vindicated.
Not too much to ask really is it? “I don’t really think about the responsibility,” Roberts says. “I’m not the sort to lie awake worrying or wringing my hands.
“Pressure is just part of playing fly half or goal-kicking. Like anyone I feel nerves - but no more than anyone else.
“In some ways there will be nerves in the final but in others it’ll be nice to be free of the tension of the league.”
Clearly Roberts is not intending to be overawed by the occasion. Not only did he play supremely well against Leeds in the league, he scored an impudent try when it might have been better to move the ball wide, he was also a star performer in the semi final victory over Exeter. Then of course there’s the fact that while very few people above the age of 25 have played at Twickenham, it’s difficult to find a player under that age who hasn’t.
Indeed Roberts would do well to suppress an bored yawn at the prospect of yet another trip to HQ.
He was last there a year ago as part of the Hartpury College squad that won the British University title and has twice appeared in the Middlesex Sevens with Bristol and Gloucester.
Not that it’s been an especially kind venue. His Bristol side didn’t win a match and although Hartpury beat their opponents from Loughborough, Roberts came off the bench only to break his leg ten minutes later.
“I was contesting for the ball at a ruck and heard a loud crack – as did everyone around me.”
Clearly that ended his season and Cinderford were left to win their promotion play-off without him.
After six weeks in plaster he returned to pre-season at Kingsholm and was thrown into the den of the lion at Sandy Park for his first start since his injury. Moseley were steam-rollered 70-10.
“We were beaten all over the park, it would have been difficult for any fly half that day,” he says.
It was not until January 24 that he was given another opportunity and his return coincided with one of the club’s best performances for many a moon. Roberts was at the heart of 43 unanswered points.
Since then he has been granted 11 starts and grown in the job of leading Moseley to cup glory and away from league danger. As we know to whom much is given, of him much shall be required.