The perceived wisdom prevalent in the Greene King IPA Championship, indeed at virtually any level of rugby, is that ‘anybody can beat anybody on their day’.
Well, either the level two small fry aren’t having many days or that’s no longer the case because, as much as those at the bottom of the division doth protest, the statistics don’t back it up.
And it appears even king of the Davids, Kevin Maggs, is finding it increasingly difficult to prepare a team capable of taking down one of the league’s Goliaths.
Moseley have done relatively well this season, having won five of their 15 second tier matches – but none of those victories has come against a team currently in the top four.
Indeed in the aftermath of his latest attempt to change that, the Mose head coach was remarkably philosophical as he assessed the Billesley Common outfit’s 62-5 hammering at Leeds last Sunday.
“I think it just shows, even more, the gulf between the top four and where we are – the bottom six,” he lamented. “We are light years behind them.”
It is phenomenon that is replicated week-in, week-out in the Championship. Bottom-four teams might think they can beat anyone on their day but they very rarely do.
Indeed if you were to take every match between teams currently in the bottom four against the leading quartet, you’d be left with a pretty startling statistic and the feeling that a gap has indeed opened up.
Between them Nottingham, Moseley, Jersey and Ealing have beaten Leeds, Rotherham, Bristol and London Welsh just once. In 24 attempts.
And you could even qualify the sole success, which came on the opening day of the season as Nottingham, with their fully fit squad, defeated a new-look Leeds.
That was six months ago. Since then Ealing have suffered 79 and 64 -point defeats, Moseley leaked ten tries at Headingley, Nottingham have taken two points in five such matches and Jersey only one from six. How does the perceived wisdom sound now?
The reasons behind this phenomenon are obvious – time and money. Certainly Moseley, Nottingham and Ealing are part-time and while they can call on the services of some very good rugby players, most of them have other jobs.
While the full-time top four are spending hours analysing video, running opposition lineouts and looking for defensive wrinkles, their opponents are teaching, policing and coaching. Generally speaking you only have to look at body shapes to see that come the final quarter, when the gaps have been forced, the top four run amok.
And there is also the infrastructure to which Maggs referred. Ignore the business staff, etcetera – not too many of those at Rotherham who are as close to an outlier as this paradigm possesses.
Consider instead the fact that both Leeds and Bristol have RFU-funded academies and an endless supply of new recruits to hold tackle bags, keep the first teamers on their toes or even break into the starting line-up.
The gulf is only going to get wider.