Malvern put in season's best performance as a farewell
By Peter Woods
Malvern 45 Old Halesonians 41
Malvern said goodbye to Midlands One with a display of free flowing rugby which was echoed by their visitors from Hagley. The injury jinx had for once deserted the Spring Lane side who were able to put out perhaps the strongest team of the season - and they started with purpose to entertain a large crowd boosted by many sponsors. A fine display of inter-passing saw veteran prop Grant Fraser burst through the defence to score and set up Dan Batty's conversion. Securing the ball they then stunned Old Hales with a move down the tight side, Rob Cook setting Jon Wills off for a try. Hales struck back, winning two penalties and a scrum, from which they pulled back 5 points. Malvern shrugged off this temporary setback, once more running the ball and spreading it wide for Cook to beat the defence and score. The visitors once more struck back with a converted try, but when they kicked to clear the ball found Wills, who went through for his second score of the day, Batty converting. Hales again fought back and set up a driving maul on the Malvern 5 metre line, another converted try keeping them within 5 points of the Spring Lane men. As the game continued at a frenetic pace Malvern once more stormed downfield, Hales made a mistake, Laurie Essenhigh pounced on it and Jack Curtis was put away to score, the conversion just wide. Again Old Hales, never wanting to surrender, came back at Malvern and ended the half with another converted try, to take the total points scored to an incredible 57 in forty minutes.
The start of the second half was no less eventful as Hales put Malvern under the cosh with a good period of possession, ending with a catch and drive in the corner to level the scores. This was the point that , in some games this season, Malvern would have capitulated, but not this time. They struck back straight away, a penalty taking them close to the try line and winning the line out they kept the ball alive for Cook to score, Batty to convert. As the game became a bit feistier Hales were lucky not to lose a man because of a blatant no-arms tackle on Josh Herbert, but rode their luck and worked their way downfield to score in the corner, taking them back to only 38-36 down. Herbert then, to the delight of the home crowd, took out his previous assailant quite legally as Malvern stormed their 22 metre area. A Malvern penalty was quickly taken by Essenhigh, who used his speed to dash through a sleeping defence and score under the posts, Cook converting to give a 9 point cushion. As the game drew to a close, this proved sufficient despite a last-gasp Old Hales try.
Whilst it is easy to reflect on the might-have-beens of a disappointing season, this performance showed the Malvern faithful that there is still plenty of life and spirit in the club, and the game was a fitting end to the season in which both teams played a full part. Malvern now have to wait to find out which league they will play in next season, as there is a possibility of a level transfer into the South West, playing teams from Gloucestershire and Bristol. Otherwise it will be back to the Coventry area every other week if they stay in the Midlands division.