Malvern heart not quite enough
Malvern 17 Stourbridge Lions 24
Malvern's losing streak and injury jinx both continued at Spring Lane on Saturday as they narrowly lost a match that, with a full side, they would have surely won. This was despite a couple of episodes of foot-shooting which gifted the visitors two of their four tries and the win bonus. The first bloomer occurred within a few minutes of the start as a Malvern clearance kick was charged down, giving Stourbridge an easy collect and soft try in the corner. Malvern shook off the early disappointment and put in a sustained period of pressure on the Lions, taking play deep into their territory after a fine break by Jack Curtis. The ensuing 12th minute ruck saw the scrum half illegally lying on the ball, and Liam Roleston picked him up to clear him out. What should have been a Malvern penalty then became a red card for the prop as he was adjudged to have dumped the Stour player in a dangerous fashion. Down to 14 men so early in the game, Malvern seemed to have a mountain to climb, and their task was made so much harder as first Richard Fleming, then James Tutty, both had to leave the field through injury. Stourbridge doubled their advantage as they worked the ball well upfield to score a converted try. However, with Will Gough pressed into emergency service for his first ever game at prop, Malvern were, against the odds, holding up well in the tight plays and competing with ferocity in the loose, putting the visitors on the back foot and forcing their well-drilled defence to be stretched to the limit. They finally cracked as they switched play around and Thomas Brainwood went over in the corner before the break.
The second half saw Malvern's 14 men apply more of the same as they continually ran at the Lions defence, Adam Dixon making a break and the evergreen George Roberts on hand to power through for a try. The Black Country team rallied, and making the most of the numerical advantage, stretched the Malvern defence and scored in the corner. Still Malvern fought back, putting in several moves as the contest became feistier, but they were dealt another blow as Brainwood received a knock on the head, taking them down to 13 men. This seemed to galvanise the Spring Lane crowd, who lifted their side as they repeatedly attacked the Stourbridge line, which only held because of a few unpunished illegalities, before Ieuan Mustow finally forced his way over to set up Jasper Windsor-Clive's equalising conversion. Unfortunately, as the contest on the field became more heated, so did one or two on the sidelines, who made some intemperate comments, which the club cannot condone. A moment of controversy ensued as Stourbridge worked the ball and the winger appeared to have his foot in touch which their touch judge did not see as he was too far behind play, and when a Malvern clearance kick was charged down the visitors snatched an unlikely win with the resulting score. The Malvern faithful gave their 13 men a rousing reception because of the heart they had shown throughout the game, but the stark fact remains that a losing bonus point was not enough from a game they would probably have won with a full side. The season so far has been a tale of "nearly", with losses against teams who are no better than Malvern, but who have been able to capitalise on naive errors or grind out results, which the coaching team know has to be rectified if a second half of the season revival is to be seen. Malvern now travel to Sutton Coldfield as they seek their first victory of the New Year, before hosting Whitchurch at Spring Lane on 19th January.