Much changed Malvern succumb to Whitchurch
Whitchurch 37 Malvern 8
Malvern, again suffering from multiple personnel changes, made the long trip to North Shropshire on Saturday and competed well for the first 35 minutes. Ben King slotted over a penalty early on to give the Spring Lane side a 3-0 lead and both sides probed the other, looking well-matched, for most of the first half. Whenever the home side attacked, Malvern's high pressing defensive line kept them at bay with some great tackling, but the final pass often went astray when they counter-attacked. Having lost hooker Liam Moloney with a pulled hamstring in the warm-up the Malvern line-out misfired all afternoon, conceding possession to Whitchurch, and further rejigging was necessary when Brad Smith came off with a leg injury. Whitchurch finally took advantage as they broke from defence and Malvern missed tackles as the inside centre sped upfield to take the lead. Fired up, the Salop side turned the ball over and won a penalty, which also earned Richard Fleming a 10 minute rest in the sin bin. Opting for a scrum, Whitchurch controlled the drive then whipped the ball out for the outside centre to go over for a 10-3 lead at the break.
At the start of the second half a familiar malaise struck Malvern as they conceded a soft try whilst still down to 14 men, missing some easy-looking first tackles for Whitchurch to score in the corner. From the restart Whitchurch repeated the score as more tackles were missed, Malvern seemingly incapable of reproducing the tight defensive work they showed in the first period.Just when it looked as though they might be coming back into the game a kick was charged down and the interception saw the home side go 25-3 up. It was fortunate for Malvern that the home kicker was totally off form, otherwise the deficit would have been 10 more points. Malvern did respond with a very good passage of play, testing the Whitchurch defence and winning a succession of penalties and finally spinning the ball wide for Jack Curtis to score. This only lifted the home team, who responded by turning over the ball in the Malvern 22, winning a penalty which was quickly taken to restore the gap, the substitute kicker claiming their only conversion of the day. Whitchurch then capped a workmanlike display by running the ball out of defence and through some more haphazard Malvern tackling for a final try.
Malvern seem to have trouble adjusting to the faster pace of this new league, although for most of the first half they were equal to Whitchurch. However, once more they seemed to lose impetus after half time, something which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. They have now lost two games which arguably were winnable, although they have been hampered by continual personnel changes. They now face league leaders and high scorers Bromsgrove at Spring Lane on Saturday, before a rest week , then an away fixture against fellow strugglers Droitwich - a game which must surely be targeted as the one to get back on the winning trail.