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Home > News > Malvern 13 - Rugby Lions 16
Your News Malvern 13 - Rugby Lions 16

Runaway league leaders Rugby Lions came to Spring Lane as odds-on favourites, having only dropped one bonus point all season. Having been on the end of an 84-0 thrashing at Webb Ellis Road, all the most thought they would see from the young Spring Lane side was a damage limitation exercise. However, they had reckoned without the resilience of the coaching team and players, whose preparation for the game had been both thorough and intense. Lions have won all their games mainly because of their incisive back division, so Malvern set out from the start to make sure that the Warwickshire speed merchants saw little good ball. To do this the Malvern tackling had to be spot on and so it proved from the start. As Lions tried to work their way out of defence, Malvern harried them into fumbling the ball, which was hacked on and killed by the visitors for Adam Dixon to put over a sixth minute penalty for the opening score. As every Malvern player got in the act to frustrate their illustrious opponents, they were looking the sharper of the two sides. A Malvern penalty took Les Bleus deep into Lions territory, the ball was whipped quickly across to Ryan Watkins who shook of tackles and burst through the middle to score an excellent try with Dixon converting. This proved a wake-up call for Rugby who won a penalty after the restart and put in a series of driving mauls, ending with prop Ben Nuttall going over for the try, Leigh Hinton converting. Malvern restarted, Lions went over the top of the ruck and Dixons long range penalty bounced off the bar and over for a 13-7 lead. As Malverns in-the-face play continued to frustrate Lions they managed to keep the game in the visitors half for long periods, but Rugby managed to throw off the shackles to get into home territory. Winning a penalty, Hinton made no mistake to bring the score back to 13-10 in the 25th minute. However, it was significant that Lions felt they had to rely on his boot, as it was clear that they felt unable to break down Malverns excellent defensive play. Although they spent much of the remaining time until the break trying to breach the home defence, Lions were unable to make any headway.

At the turnaround, Lions brought on England Sevens star Ben Gollings, whose speed usually cracks open the best defences at this level of rugby, and much higher. However, Malvern continued undaunted in their mission, even though most of the play was taking place in the home half, the visitors now having wind advantage. Still the tackling was ferocious, and Lions tried everything to score the tries which, having flowed all season, were now signally absent. They took scrums when awarded penalties, but Malvern drove them back repeatedly to repel the threat. However, inevitably Lions had to turn to the boot of Hinton, the divisions top points scorer, who levelled the scores with a 62nd minute effort. As Malvern continued to battle against Lions efforts it was looking as though an unlikely upset was still on the cards, but a slightly fortunate penalty to Lions in the 73rd minute saw Hinton unerringly put the ball through the uprights to take the lead for Rugby for the first time in the game. Hard as Malvern tried they were unable to break through the Lions defence before the final whistle, which brought a show of appreciation for a fine game of rugby football from the large crowd.

Disappointment was etched on the faces of Malverns players and coaching team as they left the field, but they can take great satisfaction from a performance which all watching rated as the best ever seen at Spring Lane in recent years. Fittingly, the Waitrose Man of the Match award was given to skipper Matt Williams for what had been an inspired game in which every member of the team stepped up to the plate and none were found wanting.

Head Coach Liam Hughes was tremendously proud of his team. Weve known all along that we have the talent in our squad in terms of skill levels. Today, it was as much about psychological as physical preparation and the guys responded brilliantly. To go from an eighty four point deficit in October to a narrow loss today shows just how far weve come over the last few months. Now the lads know what they are really capable of Im confident that this will show through in our performances to the end of the season.

Malverns next league fixture is away to Syston on 3rd March when they will be looking for a double over the Leicestershire side

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