Malvern were keen to prove a point after an early-season mauling in Lincolnshire and hit the ground running from the first whistle. From the first scrum the Malvern pack asserted itself and drove to the Scunthorpe 5 metre line. The visitors cleared, but conceded a penalty and a further scrum saw Malvern drive to the line, Tim Pickard scoring a fifth minute try. From the restart the Malvern forwards again took play to their opponents, some penetrating play from Matt Williams
, Andrew Cannock and Rory Gratwohl making significant inroads as Scunthorpe were penned deep in their own half. Full back Luke Milton
got in on the act with a great run after the pack had again secured good ball for the back line to move it fluently. After 16 minutes Tom Longley
, Milton and Robin Fransson combined and Scunthorpe conceded an inevitable penalty which the Swede put over to increase the margin. Slowly Scunthorpe came into the game, finally getting into the Malvern half, but the home defence was being expertly marshalled by Ieuan Mustow
to shut out the visiting side’s danger men. This caused some frustration in their ranks and they conceded several penalties which enabled Malvern to clear their lines. Phil Rawle was injured after a typical high-impact display and was replaced by Ollie Marshall, but Malvern were reduced to 14 men when Nick Miller
was shown a yellow card. Scunthorpe took advantage of this and scored through standoff Tom Foster, but Malvern rode out any further incursions until half time.
With the strong wind now giving the home side some advantage, Malvern came out showing the same thirst for controlled attacking rugby they had displayed in the first half, testing the Scunthorpe defence all the time. The hard-working Jamie Tsang
was replaced by John Clark, the forwards continued to punch through with eventual man of the match Gratwohl in outstanding form and the backs had plenty of good ball from Longley and Adam Dixon
all afternoon. On the hour mark Gratwohl fielded a clearance kick and went on a rampaging run, the ball was quickly moved out and Fransson went over then converted his try. With a 10 point cushion there was no resting on laurels as Malvern continued to control operations. Winning two five metre scrums in succession, Malvern’s front eight had their opposite numbers in all sorts of difficulties, they repeatedly infringed and the referee awarded a penalty try, Fransson bagging the conversion. With 10 minutes left and Malvern now rampant, the pack took a scrum against the head; Richard Fleming
went on the burst and fed Gratwohl for a fitting score to cap his excellent performance, Dixon converting.
The Malvern coaching staff were as delighted as the players and supporters with their team’s best display of the season to date. “The lads showed determination all week in the lead-up to this game” said Head Coach Liam Hughes. “They were positive about laying the ghosts of the result at Scunthorpe and came out and did so. Our defence was magnificent, denying Scunthorpe any real possession and forcing them into errors, whilst in attack our forwards were immense and won plenty of ball to feed to the back line. I now look to see a similar display next week against promotion chasing South Leicester. Having drawn with them at Welford Road we will do all we can to go one better.”
Kick off at Spring Lane is at 2.15pm on Saturday.