Birmingham Moseley 70 v 16 Hull Ionians
The first fixture of the 2019/20 season resulted in a heavy defeat, 70pts to 16, at Billesley Common but the Ionians squad competed manfully through-out and gained some reward for their efforts with two tries late in the game.
Even the beleaguered Boris Johnson would have been pressed to put a positive spin on the size of the defeat, however it was a salutary lesson for the players new to N1 rugby and they showed sufficient mettle to bring some optimism to the visiting officials and the small band of supporters who had travelled south.
There were ominous signs from the off. The first scrum disintegrated alarmingly and Ben Palmer opened the scoring with the resulting penalty for the hosts. Ionians’ depleted resources were stretched to the limit when Sam Crane limped off in the third minute and their defence was severely tested before Birmingham finally crossed the line in the 14th minute, a scrum on the 5m line providing good ball that was swept across the back line into the hands of “old boy” Aquille Smith to glide over in the corner. Palmer converted well from near the touch line to give Birmingham a 10 point advantage.
Ionians gained some control and briefly threatened through the centre pairing of Billy Hardy and James Tinkenell but they then conceded possession and the hosts were quick to punish such largesse, once again moving the ball swiftly wide to give winger Mason Tonks a clear run to the line, Palmer’s goal pushed the score to 17 – 0 with quarter of the match played.
A powerful break from Hardy took Ionians as deep into enemy territory as they had thus far mustered and Birmingham’s fractured defence conceded a penalty, allowing Joe Green to open the visitors account with a straightforward goal.
Birmingham came back from the re-start, a series of drives took the forwards close to the line before Portuguese International, Jacques Leroux, drove over for the first of his two tries, Palmer again added the extras to push Moseley ahead to 24 – 3.
Ionians eventually acclimatised to the pace and intensity and began to offer more of an attacking threat. Stand in stand-off Luke Thundercliffe ghosted through a gap and carried the ball up to the home 22, with the pack in support the ball was driven on but Moseley were able to win back possession at the break-down and clear to touch.
Ionians finished the half strongly. A line-out well within the hosts 22 was driven in field where Ben Bell made inroads through the home defence. Moseley transgressed at the breakdown, illegally stealing possession, and Green added a further three points to Ionians tally and a half time score of 24 – 6.
It took Moseley a little over five minutes of the second half to secure the bonus point try. Some smart interplay, orchestrated by Palmer, worked play up close to the Ionians try line before the fans Favourite, Buster Lawrence, muscled over. Palmer was true with the conversion, 31 – 6.
Ionians went back on the attack and should have gained something when Duell Trueman was blatantly impeded following up his own kick, but play was allowed to continue and was quickly transferred to the other end of the field where Lawrence was lurking out wide to run in unopposed.
Ionians had clearly run out of steam and conceded three further tries in quick succession; Moseley were able to turn on the style to good effect with both wingers the beneficiaries, Tonks adding one try and Smith two, to complete a hat-trick.
Re- enforcements arrived for both sides and the rejuvenated Ionians eight were able to fashion a score following a rare line-out success. A clean take saw the ball stuck up the jumper and driven on and over for a try for Ben Stephenson, no less than their efforts deserved.
Dan Wright chalked that score off when he pounced on a loose ball to dive over to put Birmingham 65 – 11 in front only for Ionians to repeat their earlier feat, this time ebullient Ben Bell bullocking over from the back of the line.
Moseley had the last word, Leroux grabbing a second try, to complete a comprehensive defeat of the league’s new boys, and at times it looked like men against boys, but a great deal of credit must go to the Ionians players who were getting a first taste of national rugby. They acquitted themselves well and will be better for the experience.