When the revamped structure for the 2012-13 RFU Championship season was unveiled this time last year, it was greeted with widespread approval at most second tier outposts and a wry smile at Billesley Common.
No-one can argue that the streamlined promotion play-offs and removal of the hated relegation group is not a more just way of rewarding success, recognising mediocrity and penalising failure.
Yet given Moseley’s hate-love relationship with the dreaded Pool C – they were the only side to participate in and survive all three demotion play-offs – announcement of the current and entirely reasonable ‘finish bottom and you’re down’ protocol had some of their supporters ruefully speculating, ‘Wouldn’t it be Sod’s Law if there’s no play-off when we actually need it?’
Don’t forget there were times when the six game post-season, which put the very foundations of the club up for negotiation, seemed horribly unfair.
Remember the first version in 2009 when Mose finished 55 points above 12th place and still ended up sweating until the penultimate match.
Similarly no Red and Black memory would want to forget the next two seasons when they played executioner by relegating Birmingham & Solihull at Damson Park, and very nearly doing the same to London Scottish last April when they beat the Exiles and sent them into spasms of self-doubt. You’re not human if you don’t enjoy a spot of schadenfreude.
Nevertheless it is only fair this year’s relegatee, let’s add another shocker to sport’s bastardised lexicon, will be decided over a 22-game campaign and arguably it is only fair Moseley are once again up for de-selection.
For two months, November and December, they lost their way and didn’t win a single league game as the shock of playing so poorly and losing at Doncaster seemed to stay with them against Leeds, London Scottish, Rotherham and even in the British & Irish Cup double header with Gala. Only at Nottingham two days before Christmas did they pull themselves around.
They have recovered of late but have paid for their extended absence and starting at home to Bristol on Saturday now face an eight-game mini-season in which they must save their skins.
If that’s not so different from recent years, then the presence of Jersey and Doncaster and a three-way battle to avoid the community game certainly is, as the run-in begins to resemble the final eliminator of Gladiators. No prizes for guessing which pitch most resembles the Travelator.
With 21 points and four wins to their name Moseley start on John Anderson’s first whistle with Jersey one second, sorry two points, behind and the Knights seven back. Kevin Maggs will view it is a handy advantage and one he’d rather have than be trying to eat into, but he also knows it doesn’t confer any guarantees.
In terms of strength of remaining schedule Doncaster have the easiest run in, if only because if one adds up the league positions of the final eight opponents, the Knights’ total is highest. Moseley and Jersey’s is exactly the same.
Interestingly, all three have to go to Penzance to take on the resurgent Cornish Pirates, who since drawing at Billesley Common in early November have won seven of their nine matches in cup and league.
Only Newcastle have left The Mennaye with anything other than a defeat and perhaps Messrs Maggs, Harvey and Griffiths should not budget for too many points.