Moseley 23 Bristol Rugby 14: Kevin Maggs revels in Moseley's limelight as paupers upset princes once again
BRISTOL have suffered more than their fair share of galling defeats this season – thrashings at Nottingham and Leeds, a tame surrender at Cornish Pirates and an inexplicable falling-apart at home to Moseley.
But, given the time of the season, the importance of making their game in hand on Leeds count and the impressiveness of their last performance on the road in beating Bedford, this was perhaps the most jarring loss of all this term.
In a battle of paupers against princes, the paupers – for the second time this season – emerged victorious, somehow overhauling an early 14-0 deficit to make it appear as if they were the side chasing the play-off spot and Bristol the one battling to stay in the Championship.
When Moseley fought back from 21-5 down to beat Bristol 22-21 at the Memorial Stadium in September, it may have been deemed unfortunate. For them to be allowed to win from 14-0 down at Billesley Common was beyond careless.
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As a result, Bristol will head into their final four games of the Championship season – three of which are away, one of which is at Newcastle – still three points behind fourth-placed Leeds. All is not lost – but they will have to be the Bristol that won at Bedford, and not that which coughed and spluttered at Moseley, if they are to stand a chance. What a difference a fortnight can make.
Bristol’s wait for a first win at Billesley Common continues – and the manner of their defeat, which followed a home loss against Nottingham, will throw up plenty of questions about how their new management structure is working.
The men in charge of Moseley – Bristolians Kevin Maggs and Dave Hilton – wore smiles as wide as the Avon as they took in the scale of their achievement in beating a club who have shown in recent weeks they are ready to spend serious money in an attempt to get back to the Aviva Premiership.
“We’ve had the things that you can’t buy – heart, togetherness and determination – and we’re unbeaten at home this year,” said Maggs, dropping a thinly-veiled hint that Bristol may not have those things.
“We’ve got no choice but to pluck lads from lower divisions – and the lads who have come from three or four leagues below have done outstandingly well. They’ve proved that they are more than capable of playing Championship rugby.
“Obviously, things are going to change [at Bristol] with Andy Robinson coming in and throwing money at players from the Premiership. So there are big changes afoot at Bristol but we’ll take our limelight when we can and we’ll enjoy this.”
Bristol’s woe was compounded by the fact the try that effectively denied them even a losing bonus point was scored by Buster Lawrence, formerly of Colston’s School and Dings Crusaders, and who grew up on their doorstep.
“He’s an athlete and he’s got all the things that go with that – he’s strong, he’s quick, he’s skilful,” said Maggs, who plucked the youngster from National Two South. “He’s an outstanding prospect.”
The way Bristol started the game, there was no hint of what was to follow, bursting into a 14-0 lead that had anxious Moseley supporters hoping their team could, at best, switch to damage-limitation mode.
Bristol were rampant in the opening 20 minutes – scoring tries through Ryan Edwards, who ripped the ball off home scrum-half Ryan Glynn and raced 40 metres, and Ross Johnston, who was powered over from a line-out.
Luke Eves thought he had added a third try when he collected Tristan Roberts’ pass and touched down next to the posts – but Roberts’ pass was deemed to have travelled forward.
Almost from that point on – certainly from when Redford Pennycook harshly saw yellow for pulling down a maul – Bristol were swimming against the tide.
Moseley halved the visitors’ lead when replacement Sam Dickinson was driven over following Pennycook’s yellow card, before Roy Winters was also sent to the sin-bin for taking out Lawrence at a line-out.
Bristol briefly played with 13 men, with Ollie Thomas kicking his team within four points from the resulting penalty, before knocking over another following a scrum offence.
Moseley were now within striking distance – and their desire, hunger and work-rate dwarfed that from their visitors. When Thomas kicked his side in front on 63 minutes it was not as if Bristol had not been warned.
And, after replacement Matt Jones missed a penalty to nudge Bristol back in front, Lawrence ducked and weaved his way to the line from a close-range ruck in the closing minutes, with Thomas adding the extras to deny Bristol a point.
Moseley: O Thomas; S Hunt, G King, A Carter, W Robinson; G Hughes, R Glynn (S Brown 68); E Waller (T Warren 68), S Wilkes (M Williams 68), B Evans, B Lawrence, M Powell (capt; A Lockley 57), N Mason (B Pons 55-68 & 76), O Robinson, B Pienaar (S Dickinson 31). Rep not used: B Davies.
Scorers: Tries – Dickinson, Lawrence. Cons – Thomas (2). Pens – Thomas (3).
Bristol: J Tovey; G Watkins (A Short 70), F Otto, L Eves, R Edwards; T Roberts (M Jones 62), J Grindal (capt; R Tipuna 73); K Traynor, R Johnston (R Lawrence 62), W Thompson (B Douglas 47), B Glynn (G Townson 26), R Winters, M Mama, R Pennycook, M Eadie (I Grieve 57).
Scorers: Tries – Edwards, Johnston. Cons – Roberts (2).
Sin-binned: Pennycook (38-45, pulling down maul); Winters (42-55, pulling down line-out).
Referee: L ap Geraint Roberts.