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Malvern 41 - 8 Spartans

Malvern Masterclass Defeats Tough Spartans

Last Updated: Feb 26, 2015 06:16pm
Malvern, Malvern Hills
By Peter Woods
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Malvern overcame a tough Spartans threat with a last quarter display of all that is good about the rugby being coached at Spring Lane. The visitors from Sutton Coldfield started well, using their forward power to go deep into home territory, but skipper Luke Milton cleared the danger. Malvern responded with a beautifully executed move, Craig Freeman driving on and Richard Fleming, Milton, Laurie Essenhigh and George Withers all involved before releasing George Roberts, the winger celebrating his 75th game by going over to score. Ben King converted and Malvern looked to be well on their way to a comfortable win. However, the Sutton Coldfield side had other ideas and used their heavier forward power to drive back a Malvern scrum, then charge down a clearance kick. Malvern won a penalty and in true cavalier style tried to run the ball from their own 22, only to be penalised for not releasing in the tackle. The visitors slotted the resultant penalty to claw back three points and the home side responded by winning the ball at the restart and driving to the Spartans line, only to be penalised for crossing. Spartans put in a good counter-attack and went through five phases of play to get within striking distance only to knock on. Malvern eschewed the safe option of clearing their lines with a kick to touch, again trying to run from deep, only to knock on. From the resultant scrum the well-drilled Spartans front eight drove the Malvern pack backwards to claim a pushover try and take the lead. Malvern again responded with their running game, making inroads but repeatedly fumbling or knocking on as they played high-octane rugby. They managed to stifle a Spartans scrum, won on their own put in and were awarded a penalty which King put over to retake the lead. An injury to Richard Hobbs saw Dave White take the field for his first senior outing as Malvern continued to run the ball. Craig Freeman again was prominent, taking the ball on strongly to take Malvern close and test the Spartans defence. He then drove to the line, being stopped just short, as was Dave Smith, but Essenhigh marshalled the plays well and the ball was whipped out for Roberts to go over for his second try of the game. The conversion was charged down, but the half ended with Malvern 15-8 ahead.

The second period saw Spartans deciding to play to their forward strength and there was a 15 minute period of play when they camped in the Malvern half, putting the home side under the cosh as they tried to drive the ball over the line. However a fine, if at times seemingly desperate, Malvern defence kept them out and the home scrum eventually stabilised to negate the threat. A yellow card to Spartans for a silly offense in front of the referee gave Malvern a one man advantage as the Spring Lane side started to reclaim the game. Essenhigh made a 30 metre break, setting up the ruck, Milton joined the line and King went over to give Malvern a two score cushion. Malvern were going up a gear now, George Withers breaking, King took on a slipped the ball inside for Essenhigh to dart through to score and convert. Liam Rolleston came on and immediately made an impact with a couple of strong runs up the wing as the whole team scented victory. They repeatedly attacked the Spartans line and the visitors lost another man to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on. The Warwickshire side won a penalty but then fumbled the ball, Malvern snaffled it and Essenhigh darted in for another try, King converting. The match was ended with a flourish after Malvern won a penalty to take them eight metres from the line. The ball was secured, passed out to the midfielders and James Southall rounded of a fine Malvern performance by powering through to score for King to convert.

Director of Rugby Dave Irish was delighted with the way his side performed. “Spartans gave us a tough examination and we passed through dogged determination. The performance of our backs, engineered by some inspired play by Man of the Match Laurie Essenhigh and James Southall, was exemplary, but I also want to highlight our often unsung forwards. We won good line out ball courtesy of Dave Smith and Jack Longley, Dave White and Ben Redler slotted in well in their first games and Grant Fraser and James Redfearn did a difficult job well. Craig Freeman and George Withers both impressed with their running and ball carrying, while out in the backs it was good to see Connor Giggle back in the first team after recovering from a broken arm. The fact that we had a couple of first team regulars missing didn’t seem to affect us and leaves me with a bit of a selection headache for next week’s game against table topping Newbold.” 

Malvern will be keen to erase the memory of a heavy defeat at Newbold when they had the better of the first half, only to lose Rory Jones to a long delay and pitch change which saw the Rugby-based side dominate the last 20 minutes. Kick off is 2.15pm at Spring Lane.

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