Birmingham Moseley 14 – Hartpury RFC 32

Following this result, Hartpury face two more challenges which will decide whether or not they achieve the ‘perfect season’.

They would make history by completing a National One season with a 100% winning record, although the odds now appear to be in their favour following this emphatic win at fourth-placed Birmingham Moseley.

A home game against bottom club Macclesfield is their next assignment, followed by a last-day trip to Blackheath who, despite being among the pre-season favourites, have won just three games out of eleven in 2017.

The current total of 138 league points amassed, 30 clear of nearest challengers Plymouth Albion, is already a league record while their ‘points scored’ differential, of 819, puts them 529 ahead of their nearest rivals.

The win at Moseley was achieved in almost perfect conditions for a side who like to run the ball – and Hartpury fall firmly into that category.

They also had a selection to fit the conditions.  Mat Protheroe started at full-back, while the continued unavailability of Jacob Perry meant a first start for BUCS-winning fly-half Sam Leeming.  Luke Eves and Steve Leonard provided an established midfield partnership to supply the lightning pace of Harry Cochrane and Levi Davis on the wings.

The pack had a more settled look, with Will Tanner resuming at hooker after being rested last week and the familiar faces of James Stephenson, Ben Chan and Will Safe on the bench.  Prop, Bert Gibson, was a second debutant in reserve.

The early exchanges saw Moseley with plenty of possession, but unable to break down an exceptional visiting defence. As the opening quarter progressed, however, the champions began to spread their wings in attack.

The breakthrough came early in the second quarter.  Luke Eves was the architect, his break sucking in defenders before a beautifully timed pass allowed Harry Cochrane, playing his second game in less than 24 hours after benching for England Students on Friday, to finish with ease.

A few minutes later, and Hartpury were back into the same corner when the ball was run off an attacking scrum.  Mat Protheroe, coming into the line, made good ground before feeding Cochrane, but this time the winger was marked.  His inside ball, however, was good enough to find Protheroe, still in space, and the rest was a formality.

Having established a useful lead, Hartpury then had a quiet few minutes and Moseley got some reward for their efforts when James Elliott drove over for the hosts six minutes before the break.

Hartpury did find time for another as the half drew to a close.  Protheroe’s exciting break was ended illegally, earning Moseley a yellow card and Hartpury a penalty kick to the corner.  The catch and drive rolled infield before Jake Polledri peeled off to score.

Still enjoying the numerical advantage, the visitors started the second half brightly and the game was ended as a contest by a burst of 15 unanswered points in the first seven minutes.

Robbie Shaw slotted a simple kick after Moseley had been penalised under their goalposts as Hartpury poured forward.

The men in red were not satisfied with that however and, after another mesmerising break from Protheroe, winger Davis was a couple of metres short before Mat Gilbert popped over from the breakdown.

Shaw’s conversion struck a post – for the second time in successive attempts – but the visitors need not have worried, as they were soon to score again.

From the re-start Hartpury ran the ball back, Steve Leonard leading the way with a rapid 40 metre burst from deep.  Levi Davis was in support and he had the wheels to run in from the 22 untouched, Shaw this time landing a successful kick from wide out.

At 32-7 and with their tails up, it looked like time for Hartpury to cut loose.  Perhaps the biggest surprise of the afternoon was that they did not add to their tally.  They created several further chances, each time finding new ways not to score – knock-ons and forward passes being among the favourites.

Moseley, to their credit, never stopped fighting and had the final say when hooker Will Crane barged over with two minutes to play.

After a busy fortnight of rugby, Hartpury’s players now get a chance to recuperate before the last two games and possible history.

B’ham Moseley: Penn, Baffour-Awuah, Cheshire, Preece, Sheldon, Williams (Cons 43, 78), Brown; Elliott (Try 33), Crane (Try 78), Fidler, Hone, Crofts, Le Roux, Wilson, Brightwell.  Replacements: Burgoyne, Farnworth, Pailor, Brazier, Grieve

Hartpury: Protheroe (Try 28), Davis (Try 46) Leonard, Eves, Cochrane (Try 21), Leeming, Shaw (Cons 28, 46. Pen 42); Flook, Tanner, Clarey, Batley, Dancer, Polledri, Gilbert, Oakley. Replacements: Stephenson, Gibson, Chan, Safe, Abrahams.

Referee:              B Blain

Attendance        751

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