Malvern 79 Manchester 3
Whilst most clubs have sympathised with Manchester’s well-publicised off-field plight, this was never going to be extended to activities on the field of play. With Malvern looking to finish in the top half of the table they pressed from the start. Gary Dipple making inroads and setting Simon Daws off on a charge. The veteran flanker, playing his last game in Malvern colours, was caught just short of the line, but the tone for the day had been set. Dipple again went on a jinking run and Malvern were awarded a penalty which Adam Dixon dispatched to open the scoring. From the restart Malvern showed superb handling skills by both forwards and backs and they won another penalty, opting for a scrum. The set piece ground relentlessly forward and Tom Longley touched down. Malvern again gathered the restart kick, Dixon and Daws linked to pierce the Manchester defence and Dipple drifted in to give Dixon an easy conversion. With a quarter of the match gone Malvern secured another try after a penalty to the visiting 22 metre line saw the line out secured and Dipple again on song to score and Dixon to convert. Manchester managed to get on to the scoreboard when Malvern were penalised for crossing and Raybould put the ball over, but Malvern soon regained the upper hand. The Manchester pack was driven off the put in at a scrum and the ball was whipped out to Ryan Watkins who claimed the bonus point try. Capitalising on a Manchester error as Malvern kept putting the visitors under pressure, Ieuan Mustow sped through to claim a try which Dixon converted. Malvern put the Northerners’’ scrum under pressure, Longley hacked on and chased through to ground the ball for a 41-3 half time lead.
As the weather worsened, with a mixture of intermittent rain and hailstorms in the second half, Malvern stuck to the game plan. Stealing a Manchester ball in the loose, it was James Southall’s turn to get on the score sheet within two minutes of the restart. Malvern rang the changes, all three replacements coming on and Richard Fleming made his considerable presence felt as he scored. Tom Longley got his hat trick with a carbon copy of the first try of the day, Dixon’s conversion bringing up the 60 points, and then Dipple equalled the feat after Jamie Tsang’s break put him away. With 5 minutes left Mustow split the defence and opened a path for Luke Milton to run through to score. The full back then broke from the back to link up with Daws, who could have signed off from his playing career at Spring Lane with a try, but he unselfishly put Dipple in for his fourth of the day, Dixon’s conversion bringing the entertainment to a close.
Whilst a large score had been expected, the Malvern crowd were left buzzing at the commanding performance on show, the twelve try bonanza a fitting way to end a season which saw Malvern finish in the highest-ever position in the league structure. Having seen a steady improvement by this still young side as the season has progressed, the coaching team led by Liam Hughes can confidently look forward to next season and the challenges it will bring.