Marlborough promoted after exciting playoff victory
Marlborough won a thrilling Southern Counties League promotion playoff with the last kick of the game for a 31-29 win.
This head-to-head at Windsor's home ground of Home Park was between two teams who enjoyed almost identical seasons in the north and south divisions respectively and was expected to be close and so it was until the dramatic end.
Marlborough started well and scored a good try from Inosi Laqekoro who picked up from a scrum to drive over. The scrum was to be a dominant feature for the away side but it was Windsor who had the better of the first half, they played some good rugby and utilized a very good driving maul. Windsor scored tries from hooker James Winter, scrum-half Ben Grant-Adamson and second row Aaron McGroarty – all converted by Jack Gaylor – to give them a lead of 21-5.
The crucial play of the half, came when Marlborough bagged a second try. A good bounce of the ball, set Mitieli Vulikijapani free and he used his devastating pace to run in and score. Jake Williams scored the conversion to make the score at 21-12 and that was the last kick of the half.
Marlborough went through the gears in the second half and hugely upped their game. There was a great performance by Craig Williamson, Jamie Pittams came on in the forwards, which improved the lineout in both attack and defence. Plus there was a tactical switch between outside half James Farrell and centre Amori Nailago. This tactical switch would set Nailago free in attack. Windsor scored an early second half penalty, before the flair of Nailago saw him score a fantastic individual try, Williams converted. Nailago followed his first try 5 minutes later with another stunning individual try and although Williams missed the kick the score was now 24 all.
With more than 25 minutes remaining, the outcome of the match was still very much in the balance. Windsor scored their fourth try after Gaylor hit a good line to go over, the conversion came back off the post. However, the score was now 29-24 and although Windsor missed a penalty they held the lead until very near the end. In the last phases of the game, Marlborough were making good use of the ball and forcing Windsor into conceding a number of penalties. Marlborough attacked with purpose and a double miss pass from Nailago put Vulikijapani in to score the visitor's fifth try and to put the scores level. There was huge pressure on the conversion which would be the last kick of the game, new kicker Will Grant slotted the conversion to give Marlborough the win. It was a breathtaking climax to a tough, tension-filled clash, Marlborough now look forward to building for next season and their first ever time in level 6.
Huge credit to all the players, coaches and back room people. The whole club celebrated all evening !