Malvern crown season with Shield victory
Malvern 53 O Saltleians 12
Malvern travelled to Heathbrook, home of Dudley-Kingswinford RFC, for the North Midlands Finals day bonanza, with six games on offer. Competing in the Shield final for the first time, Malvern were up against Old Saltleians from the northern section of their league. Relegated this season, on paper the opponents from Birmingham looked to be an easy target, and after skipper Tom Hale had run in two converted tries in the opening minutes of the match it looked as though it would be a canter for the Spring Lane men. However, Salts proved tenacious opponents, using a scramble defence well, and Malvern had to work hard to break them down. With Hale off with a shoulder injury, it was up to his replacement, Conor Giggle, to step up and he did so in style as Malvern's incisive backs moved the ball quickly along the line for thr Lakelander to score in the corner. After a lengthy delay for an injury to a Salts player they upped their game and attacked the Malvern line, Jack Curtis picking up a yellow card in the process. Following the penalty they put in a catch and drive move to go over and make the half time score 19-5.
After weathering a period of Salts pressure at the start of the second period, Malvern's running game started to click into gear, Adam Dixon, Rob Cook and Ieuan Mustow distributing well to make inroads and Luke Milton went on a trademark burst from full back only to be held upon the line. Moving the ball at pace all the time they stretched the defence and it was the turn of tirelss flanker Sam Parsons to score in the corner, Cook putting over the extra two points. Malvern were now going up through the gears and the plucky Salts defence were being stretched and showing early signs of fatigue as Jack Curtis, back after his sin-binning, made a thrusting break before the ball was shipped out to Ben King to score, Cook's conversion putting Malvern four scores clear at 33-5. Salts still kept trying and were rewarded with a fine individual score from their elusive scrum half, but Malvern were unperturbed as they now dominated at the set piece, outmuscling their opposite numbers with superior scrummaging technique. With the line out also secure, Jack Longley, Jonny Bywater and Dave Smith all playing their part, it was now total rugby time, with maybe a suspicion of showboating thrown in. Just to show the backs that it wasn't all down to them, the forwards put in a catch and drive for Parsons to score his second of the match before normal service resumed for the ball to be spread for Jon Wills to go over in the corner. Putting on a terrific handling display the Malvern Machine was in full cry, running out of defence for Giggle to score. As the clock ran down, even the old dependables got a run out, Grant Fraser and Mark Chivers replacing the props and Richard Hobbs showing some trickery with a beautiful back pass out of silky hands before Curtis set off on a scoring run to wind up proceedings.
This win was a fine way to cap Malvern's most successful season for many years, and certainly their highest ever points scored total, averaging almost 50 per game. It has been a tribute to Rob Cook's coaching, aided by Nick Tisdale's work with the forwards as they have built on the foundations laid down by Dave Irish in the previous two years. Malvern can now look forward to life in a highly competitive Midlands One West where they will have many more local derby games against the like of Worcester, Droitwich, Hereford and Bromsgrove from the Two Counties plus a smattering of Birmingham and Black country teams.
The Club now looks forward to the Annual Awards dinner on 8th June for a final celebration of first XV promotion and an unbeaten second XV winning their league.