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By Ian Todd
December 20 2015

Conditions were always going to be a factor when Bristol took on Moseley (or Birmingham Moseley as they now are) and they played a big part in the game.  But not such a part as to spoil what was a thoroughly entertaining and skilful match.  Bristol played with the wind in the first half and held the hosts to nil but, crucially, managed two tries in the second half when the wind was against them.  Intelligent play from both sides was on offer with Bristol having too much strength in depth for the plucky opponents

It always seems to be windy at Billesley Common no matter any other meteorological conditions.  When we are actually promised high winds it delivers in spades.  Bristol kicked off with the wind behind them and kept the ball low in order to avoid the very real possibility of it going out on the full.  It was a smart move and was additionally rewarded with a knock-on from Moseley.  Bristol attempted to move the ball wide from a solid looking scrum but ended up being turned over at a breakdown and then penalised.  The hosts kept hold of the ball as they sought a way through the Bristol defensive line but then gave away a penalty that handed possession back to Bristol.  Gavin Henson kicked down to the edge of the Moseley 22.  A conservative kick by his standards but the strength and swirling of the wind was such there was a big chance of kicking too long.  It turned out to make no difference because Bristol claimed the lineout, David Lemi cut inside off his wing onto an inside ball and sped in by the posts for a converted try.

Moseley were under a lot of pressure and conceded another penalty and again Henson made a good touch.  Another penalty against the hosts but this time Bristol decided to go for the posts.  Again, good thinking, the wind was almost certainly going to be a factor in the second half so taking points when offered was a good strategy.  Henson obliged and Bristol were 10 – nil up.  Moseley attempted to respond and made good ground, pressing close to the Bristol line, only to be forced into touch.  However the referee was playing advantage for an earlier infringement and Moseley elected to go for touch.  They drove for the line again, and again Bristol were penalised.  The referee spoke to Bristol at this point and perhaps he had an effect because Bristol now defended solidly and legally, forcing a knock-on.  Moseley were penalised at the scrum and Bristol were off the hook.  Moseley supporters (and their 14) were complaining about three penalties in the ‘red zone’ but I only saw two, the ref had a word and there wasn’t another one.  I guess if it had happened to us I might have been less than happy but as I was at the other end of the pitch I don’t know what the actual offences were.  And anyway, given that the Moseley supporter a little along from me was absolutely convinced the referee was, from the very start, against them I don’t care!  He kept calling  ‘holding on’ when the ball was already in Will Cliff’s hands and once when it out past Morgan so he was perhaps a little biased in favour of his side.

Bristol took full advantage of their escape with Tom Varndell darting forward supported by Nick Koster who sadly passed back inside from the wing to Moseley hands.  Fortunately Moseley were promptly penalised and Bristol took the scrum.  The ball was quickly out to Matthew Morgan who sowed confusion in the Moseley defence before the ball went to Varndell who powered his way over out left.  Henson converted well and Bristol were 17 – nil up.  Bristol looked confident and in control at this point but a penalty for holding on (and this one was actually held on to because there was no support at all) gave possession to the hosts.  They kept the ball in hand and patiently worked through phase after phase but the Bristol defence held firm.  Finally it gave away a penalty and Moseley went for touch.  Sadly for them the throw in was adjudged to be not straight.  They had problems in this area throughout but Bristol’s lineout held up well until the late stages of the game when a few throws went awry.  Henson cleared the danger, then another penalty went Bristol’s way and he went for the posts to extend the Bristol lead further.

Bristol tried to launch an ambitious attack only to see an offload out of the tackle picked off by Moseley who once more tried to unlock the Bristol defence.  Again they were patient, but, as before, Bristol were equal to the task.  The hosts pressed closer and closer to the line but the defence was both resolute and, importantly, disciplined.  Eventually it was the attack that broke down and Bristol were able to sweep forward.  A very nice pass from Morgan went to Mitch Eadie advancing at pace and he romped over for a try that was converted on the stroke of half time.

Bristol held a commanding lead but would be playing into the teeth of a gale in the second half and Moseley had previously overturned many a big lead in similar conditions.  Could Bristol hold out?

The signs were ominous virtually from the start when the ball sailed over the Bristol defence and when finally claimed it could not be cleared any distance at all.  This Moseley lineout was absolutely accurate and they drove to the Bristol line before Hughes cut a great line to slice through the defence and touch down behind the posts.  His conversion brought Moseley into the game at 7 – 27.

The Bristol restart went high and actually curved back as it fell to ground.  A trajectory that carried it straight into the hands of Koster who carried on powerfully toward the hosts’ 22.  The ball was swiftly recycled and Cliff scurried through a gap in the defence to touch down beneath the posts for a converted try that immediately wiped out Moseley’s.  Was that restart actually planned to take into account the conditions?  If it was, it worked out perfectly.  If it wasn’t, Bristol certainly took their chance well.

Bristol, as had Moseley, tried to negate the effect of the wind by keeping the ball in hand instead of kicking.  Indeed, the tactic rather played to Bristol’s strengths and they looked threatening going forward.  The problem was that at times a kick ahead would have been the best option had conditions been different and a penalty was awarded to Moseley when Bristol made a mess of recycling the ball at a breakdown with players going off their feet.  The wind carried the penalty kick right back to the Bristol 22.  The wind then intervened on Bristol’s side by wafting it into Bristol hands at the lineout.  Bristol briefly escaped only to be penalised again.  This time the Moseley kick took them to the five metre line, only to see the lineout malfunction once more.  Their woes were promptly compounded when Voisey was shown yellow at the scrum.  I have no idea what for.

Bristol were unable to take much from the numerical advantage because they gave away a silly penalty shortly afterwards.  Moseley went for touch again, but again Bristol claimed the lineout win.  Joe Joyce (who had an excellent all round game) went on a rampaging run but there was confusion in the Bristol ranks as he was tackled and Moseley were able to hack the ball downfield.  Bristol struggled to get back in position as the wind transported the ball onwards and it was Moseley’s Collins who was able to claim the touchdown as it trickled over the Bristol line.  The conversion brought the score to 14 – 34.

Bristol attempted to go back onto the attack and Moseley were penalised to allow Henson to kick Bristol ten metres from the Moseley line.  The drive from the lineout was adequate and Cliff peeled away to move Bristol just a few metres out but the ball was lost forward.  All Moseley had to do was hoist the ball aloft and the wind did the rest and it sailed down to touch about five metres out from the Bristol line.  Moseley really put the squeeze on at the lineout and Brightwell went over in the left-hand corner.  The conversion was superb and Moseley really were back in it at 21 – 34.

Bristol had other ideas though and showed the advantage a strong bench brings to affairs.  Unlike most clubs in the league we can replace an international with Premiership experience like Anthony Perenise with someone of the calibre of Gaston Cortes and only strengthen the scrum.  Likewise we can replace a dynamic mobile 8 like Eadie with an enormous ball carrier like James Phillips.   And the scrum showed that it isn’t just a way of restarting the game or, sadly, a mechanism for winning penalties.  Instead it can be an attacking weapon and the Bristol pack drove straight through an overwhelmed Moseley scrum, driving their opponents off their own ball and Phillips simply had to flop on the ball as it crossed the line.  Great work that took Bristol 21 – 39 in front.

Conditions were still with Moseley though and another penalty kick took them to within a few metres of the Bristol line.  Bristol claimed this lineout too, but just could not make any ground from the clearance.  At this point neither side looked as if they could win their own throw and the lineout became something of a lottery.  Crucially, though, it was the hosts that had the territorial advantage.  They knew they probably weren’t going to win at this point in the game but they did know that a bonus point try was very much on the cards.  And bonus points are vital when you are flirting with the bottom of the table.  Moseley continued to keep up the pressure on Bristol and, after a scrum that appeared to go completely Bristol’s way, were awarded a slightly mystifying penalty.  They tapped and Bristol’s resistance was brief and Brightwell claimed his second to leave the final score at 28 – 39. 


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