EDF ENERGY NATIONAL TROPHY
HENLEY HAWKS 6
As Queen’s 1970s rock ballad We are the Champions rang, or more accurately echoed, around a sparsely populated Billesley Common one question offered itself time and again. ‘Of what?’
If there is an award for the windiest home ground outside the Mistral region of France one might expect a nomination.
If accolades are given for the most ludicrous collection of off-loads in the history of sport, this Moseley performance would make any shortlist.
And if there is a medal awarded for tap penalties, not quick tap penalties you note, by front row forwards, Ian Smith’s men are genuine challengers for gold.
If, however, whoever chooses the music for the Most Muffled PA System in Britain thinks Mose have a realistic chance of winning the EDF Energy National Trophy, then they deserve recognition for their optimism.
Cue three home draws against lower ranked opposition, a first Twickenham final in a generation and considerable portions of humble pie for yours truly.
For that to come to pass, though, they’ll have to play a darn sight better in their four remaining matches. The recent cold snap meant this was Moseley’s first game since they had their ears boxed by Coventry on December 26 and my how it showed.
A try after four minutes suggested the break had done them good. A pulverising scrummage gave them an attacking platform close to the Henley line, Andy Reay’s crash through midfield and Richard Vasey’s conversion pointed to a simple afternoon for the hosts.
Those who had bothered to turn up – and given the bitterly cold conditions and relentless wind they should be heartily commended – must have thought they were in for a heart-warming 80 minutes.
But that didn’t take into account the home team’s failure to do the basics of clearing out at rucks, supporting runners and taking care of possession.
Which is odd because had Moseley played properly they might have had twice as many as the six tries with which they ended up.
Henley were game and former Stourbridge flanker Stean Williams played like a man possessed at openside but they lacked the power to cope with First Division opponents.
From the very first scrum, when Mose shoved Hawks’ pack back at a rate of knots, to the last the Billesley Boys were utterly dominant in that facet.
They were much, much more than competitive at the lineout too and snaffled three of the first four Henley throws.
Underpowered and over-awed then, the fact Henley trailed by just two tries to a penalty at the break, tells everything about how Moseley shirked their work. Such supremacy should have been amply rewarded.
Instead they shunned kicks at goal – perhaps because of the gale blowing into their faces – and they tried to force what Ian Smith described as ‘miracle passes’ in an attempt to keep the ball alive.
The head coach went on to describe that tendency as ‘disrespectful’ and only when Tristan Roberts replaced Richard Vasey at fly-half did the home team harness the wind power effectively.
As a result they scored as many tries in the last 20 minutes as they had in the first hour.
By that time they had solved what Smith euphemistically refers to as their ‘stimulation’ problems and stopped ‘farting around’, as he put it, on their own ten metre line. Clearly the gusts had more than one source.
By that time Ollie Thomas had followed Reay over the Hawks line and Terry Sigley had been sin-binned for dipping his hand where it wasn’t welcome as the half ended 12-3. Even a player light Mose were so much better man for man that they were able to push their guests off their own ball as they defended a scrum on their own line.
Shortly after the restart Thomas and Andy Binns gave Nathan Bressington a score in the corner only for Dan Wells to respond instantaneously with his second penalty.
But when the centre hooked a clearance straight down Roberts’ throat on the hour the Gloucester player skipped through two tackles and off-loaded for Dan Norton to dive over by the flag.
Then with proceedings drawing to a close the lily was gilded. Paul Arnold claimed a pushover that should have been Rodwell’s only for the No.8 to make amends from much further out and Moseley had gone from chumpions to champions.
MOSELEY: Thomas; Norton, Binns, Reay, Bressington; Vasey (Roberts, 59), Taylor (Pasqualin, 52); N Williams, Caves (Oselton, 66), Sigley (Bignell, 48), Muldowney (Arnold, 56), Stott (D Williams, 66), Arnold, Mason (Evans, 66), Bignell (Davis, 38), Rodwell
HENLEY: Smith (Haynes, 51); Birtswhistle, Flammia, Wells, Davies (Fulton, 73); Hobart (Turner, 56), Gaunt; Milford-Scott (Fuller, 50), Tattersall (Clarke, 40), Hoosen-Owen, Clements, Green, Payne, S Williams (Dupee, 59), Hennings (Dixon, 40).
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU).