Rugby Correspondent

Even in the most ‘hyper-critical’ sections of the Moseley changing room there is a conviction among Ian Smith’s squad they stand their best chance of beating one of the First Division’s elite outfits.

The Red and Blacks have not fared especially well against National One’s more privileged teams this season, all of whom reside in the top half of the table, and have nothing but three loss bonuses to show for their five attempts at defying financial gravity.

A spanking at Exeter, a hat-trick of near misses against London Welsh, Nottingham and Cornish Pirates and what is becoming a customary 20-minute absence in their match away to Plymouth is a poor return to a team with ambitions of improving on last year’s tenth place.

Their five victories have all come over sides below them in the league, though tomorrow presents them with another opportunity to upset the natural order when Doncaster Knights visit Billesley Common.

Although Lynn Howells’ men are a full-time outfit, boast an indulgent backer and have done better than almost every other side promoted from National Two with third and fourth finishes in the last two seasons, there is a belief among their opponents that they are not the dominant force of a couple of seasons ago.

For that reason Moseley prop Nathan Williams believes his team are in with an outstanding opportunity of insulating their own National One nest with a tail-feather or two from one of the competition’s prized specimens.

“If we are going to beat them then this Saturday is probably one of our best chances,” the Welshman says. “They do not seem to be beating teams as comprehensively this season and don’t appear to have that confidence they have had in the past.

“With the back-line we have got, if we front up and get the ball to them we are going to have a real chance. Maybe this week we can really carve someone open.”

To be fair to Moseley they haven’t been too shy with the knife in recent weeks. Ten tries have come in their last two matches, wins over Esher and Sedgley Tigers, and in play-making outside centre Jack Adams and sundry exciting young wingers, Henry Trinder being the pick, Ian Smith’s side finally possess the edge to underline their commendable intent.

But there is also a concern over their application. The quarter of the game at Brickfields during which they conceded three tries has become a common feature of their performances. Even during their most convincing of successes Mose have invited opponents to contribute to the scoring.

A 22-0 lead, created inside 11 minutes, at Park Lane last Saturday was narrowed by 17 points before hegemony was finally asserted.

“That was a game of three halves. The first couple of tries were forward-oriented, with a lot of ball carriers. All of Ally Muldowney’s hat-trick came from pick-and-drive and we were playing well. Then we switched off.

“It’s that consistency that seems to be the problem. Against Esher we played some good stuff but some dumb rugby at times as well when we just played between the 15s. Against Sedgley Park we went touchline to touchline for a period. It’s that sort of thing we have to stop.

“Everyone at the club agrees we have to be hyper-critical of ourselves and get right our thought processes and calls. That’s not having a go at the guys making the calls because there are enough people on the pitch to help them and advise them what’s on and what isn’t.”

And of course against the top sides Moseley can’t afford another absence. If the RFU gain assent from their council to introduce a 12-team league from next September, Mose will have to finish no lower than 11th. Near misses could prove costly.

“There are three games we could have won. That’s another 12 points and we’d be way up the league. We are probably the best of the part-time sides but we have to turn the narrow losses into wins over the full-timers if we are to make the step into the top eight or even top six.

“How we came away with only a loss bonus against Nottingham is beyond me and the first game of the season at London Welsh is another that got away. These losses are pinning us to the middle of the pack.” Which is fine as long as Moseley continue beating the teams below them, a problem if they don’t.