National League One: Moseley 24 Nottingham 26
While it was slightly incongruous that a game of six tries, three yellow cards and almost limitless incident should be decided by a plain old conversion, the fact it came in Nottingham’s favour was anything but.
Only two points seperated the sides on the scoreboard yet in truth Nottingham were the better team and were worthy of their sixth victory in seven attempts. Only Leeds Carnegie have beaten the Green Machine so far this season and for Moseley to have emulated the promotion favourites would have been a considerable achievement.
The visitors made more yards with ball in hand, had the more reliable set-pieces, which is not to say Moseley didn’t cause serious damage at scrum time, and in the outstanding Tim Molenaar and Joe Duffey had the afternoon’s dominant forces.
Molenaar is a First Division phenomenon and why no Premiership side has been willing to take a punt on the 27-year-old is a mystery.
The New Zealander has the power to smash through defences in the tight and the pace to rip them asunder out wide.
His distribution and defence are also of a tolerably high standard.
Duffey was perpetual motion. His surges through the fringes meant Nottingham spent most of the afternoon over the gain-line and with the elusive Rohaan Nirmalendran and Andrew Jackson outside Moseley had to fight to contain their guests.
That they did so pretty well was something of a relief following the weekend’s appalling display at Rotherham. Anything like the sort of performance they turned in at Clifton Lane against Saturday’s opponents and they would have been annihilated.
However, only twice did they fail to make crucial tackles. James Rodwell missed an open field dive at Nirmalendran shortly after half time and Richard Vasey allowed Tim Taylor to slip away from him at the death. Those errors proved to be the difference as both men scored.
Rodwell atoned with an astonishingly skilful try of his own. Six minutes remained when the No?8 put his team 24-19 up following a break by Henry Trinder.
The young winger’s pass went to ground but Rodwell hacked on three times and had the pace to stay clear of Nirmalendran. With four tries this season Rodwell is becoming as influential in National One as he was when he first broke into the team in National Two. If he irons the wrinkles out of his game in the coming months he could join Molenaar in the top flight.
Vasey’s miss, however, was more debilitating. After an outstanding start with the boot for his new club, the fly half kicked 15 of his first 16 attempts in the Red and Black, he is operating at a considerably less impressive strike rate in recent games.
Two successes from six attempts on Saturday and three from seven the week before leave one wondering whether the real Richard Vasey will stand up.
While his failure to convert any of Moseley’s three scores meant the hosts’ total stalled at 24, the way he fell away from Taylor decisively added to Nottingham’s.
Vasey’s opposite number took possession as the clock showed 80 minutes and sliced over to level the game. He then stepped up and stroked through the only conversion either side managed. It proved to be the difference.
Beforehand Trinder and Charlie Sharples had underlined their raw potential with their third and sixth scores of the campaign respectively. Vasey had a 45 metre drop goal and two penalties.
In response Molenaar had put Alex Dodge over, Nirmalendran escaped Rodwell and Taylor bagged three penalties.
But ultimately both sides had one card left to play and Nottingham’s was higher.
Mose, however, had several issues by the time referee Chris Sharp ended the afternoon, particularly over time-keeping. In these days where injury time can run into double figures, it lasted just two minutes here.
They will also reflect that the yellow card count should have been levelled. Duffey received one for lying on the ball in the first half, he should have been given a second and a red for a shoulder charge on Sharples in the second.
Andy Reay was exceptionally harshly dealt with when he failed to roll away and there was also a case of mistaken identity in Nathan Williams’s case.
The Welsh prop was given ten-minutes for a perceived late hit on Molenaar and while it was extremely debatable whether the tackle was actually late, the centre was in the act of passing, what was not in doubt was the fact his assailant was indeed Terry Sigley.
Curiously all three sin-binnings seemed to have a galvanising effect on the short-handed teams. Common consensus is that a man advantage should be worth between seven and ten points yet it was a positive disadvantage here.
Moseley won 3-0 and 5-0 when they were down to 14 while Nottingham also scored an unanswered try. It was that sort of day when all that was between these teams was a single conversion.
MOSELEY: Binns; Sharples, Adams, Reay, Trinder; Vasey, Taylor (Pasqualin 65); Williams N, Caves, Sigley, Muldowney (Arnold 68), Stott (Evans 56), Mason (Williams D 68), Bignell (Blackburn 60-68), Rodwell. Replacements: Oselton, Lavery.
NOTTINGHAM: Jackson; Savage, Nirmalendran, Molenaar, Dodge; Taylor, Usasz (Pilgrim 56); Parr, Duffey, Harris (Hall 40), Morley (McDonald 65), Rouse, Hammond, Sherriff, McComb (Fowkes 42-48 (Eggleshaw 65)). Replacements: Thompson, Davies.
Referee: Mr Chris Sharp (RFU)