Moseley 17 Newbury 22
By Brian Dick, At Billesley Common

Moseley confirmed the latest mysterious phenomenon bedevilling Midlands rugby here on Saturday with yet another inexplicable start to a second half.

Last year there was Stourbridge's bizarre home record, the year before Pertemps Bees' strange ten-game losing streak but in terms of perplexity neither can quite match Moseley's recent tendency of re-emerging from their half-time isotonic drink as though it contained strychnine.

They have played seven National One games this season and in all but one the first 20 minutes of the second period have been terminal to their prospects of winning.

The list is painful to behold. Twenty-one points against Rotherham, 17 to Bedford, 31 in Cornwall, 12 at Coventry, 22 at home to Bees, an important seven up at Otley and - once again on Saturday - 16 against Newbury.

The hosts were looking good value for their 14-6 interval lead - built up through Carl Colvin's first try of the season and nine points from Ollie Thomas' boot.

But even the Tannoy announcer knew what was coming. A few seconds before the home side re-emerged he called for vocal support from their followers. It seemed to work when the young fly-half sent over a 45-yarder three minutes after the restart.

The lead was 17-6 and surely the monkey, albatross or whatever other cursed beast you'd care to mention, had been slain. Sadly not.

Sixteen minutes later, by the time former Bees standoff Tim Walsh scored a try and kicked two penalties and wing Martin Nutt beat a non-existent cover defence to touch down in the right corner, questions were being asked.

But are they fair? What is behind their second-half somnolence? Is this a statistical quirk or a terrible habit?

It's probably too early to tell at this stage but Billesley Common needs to be the site of some stone-turning on an industrial scale to find out for sure.

One theory is that opponents have been sufficiently shocked by Moseley's first-half performances to make wholesale and effective changes at the break.

That was certainly the case against Bees when Tristan Davies and Casey Dunning entered the fray, the former going on to score two tries and the latter to steady a creaking visitors' scrum.

Newbury did something similar. Isoa Damudamu trotted on to the blindside for Matt Styles and spent the next 20 minutes rampaging through the home defence.

He was helped no end by Moseley's loss of discipline and the concession of five early penalties the first of which - following a catastrophic knock-on in their own 22 - Walsh thumped over for 17-9.

The Australian then dummied his way between Paul Arnold and Coles before Nutt latched on to an outrageous grubber kick by second row Gregor Hayter. Damudamu might have extended his side's lead when he broke between two defenders and covered 30 metres only to be deprived by a try-saving tackle by Arnold.

The next time the Fijian touched the ball he crashed through the gaps in a line-out and set up the attack from which Moseley stepped offside in front of their own posts. Walsh punished them once more to underline the flanker's influence.

Ian Smith felt once more that the introduction of impact players was decisive. Where Davies and Dunning had turned the last home match Bees' way, Damudamu did something similar here.

"It is a valid point," the Moseley head coach conceded. "At present with the injuries we have got we cannot do that - as the season goes on we will rectify that.

"You cannot really fault what the players are doing. Our approach work and game management was a massive improvement, in fact a lot of things were excellent. But when it came to finishing our approach work, that's when we noticed the players we were missing. With certain personnel being injured we cannot quite finish off the chances we are creating."

Smith disputes the existence of a half-time problem. "It's always for different reasons," he said. "It's not always the same people or the same part of our game that is breaking down at that stage."

Moseley should have made the game safe when they were in the ascendancy with a couple of first-half overlaps being squandered either through a lack of pace or composure.

There were also instances in the second period that left one wondering whether the injured Nathan Bressington or the returning James Aston might have produced more end product. Both are likely to be missing for Saturday's visit by Sedgley Park so Moseley must find a way of turning promising positions into more than loss bonuses. Starting the second half awake might help them do that.