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Malvern Defeat League Leaders

Malvern 27-19 Banbury

Last Updated: Oct 13, 2014 08:03pm
Malvern, Malvern Hills
By Peter Woods
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Malvern ended comfortable winners against the early season league leaders, courtesy of a dominant display by the pack, which brought back memories of the days of Shaun Lancett, still holding the all-England record for most tries in a season by a prop forward. Although his successor, Craig Freeman, didn’t get on the score sheet, his performance as the cornerstone of the Malvern pack laid the foundation for this win. However, it was the display from the whole pack which ultimately ensured maximum points from the match, which keeps Malvern in touch with the leaders.

The tone was set in the first five minutes, when a massive Malvern scrum had the Oxfordshire side going back, but the drizzly conditions made ball handling very difficult, although Malvern were edging the game. However, the visitors were to draw first blood, albeit from a blatantly offside position, as their scrum half hacked on and they won the kick and chase to open the scoring. Still Malvern continued to attack, winning a 5 metre scrum, which was followed by three penalties and the awarding of a penalty try as Banbury failed to contain the Malvern pack. Despite the greasy conditions, Malvern continued to play their brand of attractive running rugby, but when penalised for not releasing the ball, Banbury took advantage to score a second try, much against the run of play.  The half ended with Malvern camped out in the away 22 metre area, opting for scrums when penalties were given to wear down the creaking Banbury pack.

As the second half began, Banbury were again penalised, the backs moved the ball along the line and Will Clee nearly went over, only for the referee to halt play for yet another penalty. Ben King stepped up to take the three points and bring the score back to 10-12. As Malvern piled on the pressure once more, they threatened the away line again, only for the slippery ball to be dropped and hacked downfield, Banbury winning the chase to restore a nine point lead with the conversion. Again Malvern pressed, undaunted by this setback, as they seemed full of confidence that they could overhaul the visitors. George Withers was having a tremendous game, narrowly winning the Man of the Match award for taking four against the head and a great display of ball-carrying. The vocal crowd sensed that another Malvern score was imminent and so it proved. A Malvern line-out led to a tremendous shove as the catch and drive move was beautifully executed, giving number eight Richard Hobbs the touchdown. With gap narrowed to only four points, Malvern could smell blood, putting in some crunching tackles, one memorable one coming from Charles Rambridge, and the pack drove a maul a full 30 metres to win another penalty.  A further drive to the Banbury line saw a Banbury sin bin and Malvern opting once more for the scrum, which duly drove the visitors backwards for Hobbs to claim his second of the day. This put Malvern in the lead for the first time since early in the game, and having survived a scare as Banbury counter-attacked, they once again drove to the visiting red zone. The referee, who managed the game quite well despite some dissent from some away supporters, had no choice but to award penalties to Malvern as the Banbury scrum again couldn’t cope and finally the second penalty try of the day secured maximum points for Malvern, King converting.

Director of Rugby Dave Irish was delighted with the way the whole team had played. “For the first time this season we had clear domination in the pack, even when the substitutes came on we remained rock solid. Looking at where the scores came just underlines how much on top we were up front. Given that we were short in the backs due to injuries, the lads who came in – George Roberts, Will Clee, Alex Brazier and Nick Clarke – did a job and helped to contain the threat from the Banbury back line. However, the honours must go to the pack today, all of whom had a magnificent game.” Malvern now visit Droitwich on Saturday for the first time in several years, when it is hoped that a large away support will give the team a boost for the only real local derby of the season.

Photo: File pic

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