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Malvern Sunk by Last Minute Penalty

Nuneaton Old Edwardians 15 - 13 Malvern

Last Updated: Sep 11, 2016 08:39pm
Malvern, Malvern Hills
By Peter Woods
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A match which had Malvern in control for  a good 60% of the game slipped away from them when the hosts snatched victory with the final kick of the day. Malvern, despite having to field a rejigged front row and deploying skipper Luke Milton as an emergency stand-off, had far the better of the first half. Making inroads from the off, they took the game to the much-vaunted OEs pack and won a penalty, but Will Gough’s 45 metre kick fell just short. Tom Hale, looking back to his best after missing the end of last season through injury, set out his stall by steaming past, or mainly through,  his opposite winger and was only caught 5 metres from the try line by an illegal body check which the referee failed to spot. Malvern continued to have the better of the play, debutant prop Toby Vermeire showing why he was playing on the wing in the second XV last year with a burst of speed.  Malvern pressure finally paid when the home forwards handled on the floor and Gough put over the penalty for the lead. The OE stand-off missed an opportunity to equalise by putting a simple penalty chance wide, but Malvern responded as Hale sped up the wing, bouncing two tacklers out of the way before feeding Milton for a fine try.  Gough added the extras to put Malvern 10-0 up, despite having lost scrum half Laurie Essenhigh through injury. Niall Potter-Farrant moved to scrum half, Ben King coming on at full back. The other Malvern debutant, Josh Herbert, was putting in an impressive shift at blind-side wing forward, while Sam Parsons was hunting down all-comers at open side. Dave Smith and Gough secured good line out ball courtesy of Charles Rambridge’s pin-point throwing in, whilst Richard Hoobs  and Vermeire were steadily holding up the much heavier home pack’s efforts. Hale again showed his speed, this time chasing back to bundle his opposite number into touch when the home support were already starting to celebrate a try.

Malvern’s injury woes continued early in the second half when the influential Ieuan Mustow tweaked a hamstring and Alex Stockwell replaced him to partner Richard Fleming in the centre. Gough put Malvern further ahead with another penalty, although the Warwickshire side’s pack were showing signs of getting their act together. Malvern cleared after OEs had got to the 5 metre mark, then another Vermeire burst saw him execute a perfect hand-off, and Hale continued his dominance of his opposing winger. Malvern won another penalty but Gough fell foul of the slippery surface on his run up.  As the home pack’s weight started to tell, they won a penalty which went to the Malvern 5 metre line, then put in a series of pick and drives which ended with an unconverted try. Malvern continued to run the ball, Herbert  again to the fore, but were soon down to 14 men as replacement James Redfearn collected two yellow cards in quick succession . This gave added impetus to the home effort, as from the penalty and subsequent line-out, they again sorely tested Malvern’s defence, and after a series of phases scored out wide. Their stand-off finally found his kicking boots to put over the conversion and put them only one point behind. As the final whistle approached, some desperate Malvern defence was penalised by the rather inconsistent referee, and The OEs secured a somewhat fortunate win with the last kick of the game.

Director of Rugby David Irish was understandably disappointed with the result, but not his side’s performance. “Having lost two props in a training game last week, we were a little worried that our pack might have been shoved around by their much heavier unit. However, our lads stepped up to the plate and held them for most of the match. Toby Vermeire and Josh Herbert had solid debuts and the back line, although stifled by repeated offsides, looked sharp. We need to work on our discipline more, especially around the fringes, and to hold our tongues when decisions go against us. We now look forward to the visit of Pinley to Spring Lane next week, a side who are always competitive.”

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