12:00pm Wednesday 20th February 2013
MALVERN came out on top 13-7 in a must-win National League Three South West relegation battle with Oxford Harlequins at muddy Spring Lane.
The hosts, with 12 players injured or unavailable, handed first-team debuts to Jake Hiscock at flanker and Tom Redfern at scrum-half.
Ollie Marshall came back after a long lay-off due to a hamstring injury for Rory Gratwohl.
From the first whistle, Malvern shook Quins with the ferocity of their forward play, driving to the 22-metre area and winning a firstminute penalty which Redfern coolly put over.
With the home pack leaving Quins in disarray at the setpiece, they camped in Oxford territory until Redfern whipped through a disorganised defence to score a 10thminute try which he then converted.
Malvern continued to pressurise but Quins settled and, with muddy conditions making handling difficult, most of the rest of the half was spent in the middle of the field.
The Worcestershire side’s fine defence kept out Oxford whose number eight Sam Bennett was fortunate only to receive a yellow card just before half-time for a cynical taking out of Redfern.
Given the conditions, the second period saw plenty of kicking for territory from both sides with Malvern coming off better as they kept Quins pegged back for long periods.
Nick Brookes, carrying a shoulder injury, was replaced by club stalwart Steve Cooper for a rare first-team appearance and the old warhorse did not disappoint, anchoring the scrum.
On the hour, Redfern put over another penalty to stretch Malvern’s lead and Oxford responded with a series of attacks that the Malvern defence repelled.
However, after a five-metre scrum, the visitors’ breakthrough finally came in the 72nd minute as the line was stretched and flanker Kenny Calondine went over with Will Hilton converting.
Quins made frantic attempts to snatch a last-gasp win, as they had done at home earlier in the season, but Malvern’s defence stayed rock-solid.
They played out the remaining minutes to take the win and move within a point of Avonmouth Old Boys.
Even with the disruptions caused by injuries and nonavailability, the team performance showed how much Malvern are improving.
While they still need wins against sides higher up the table to ensure safety, the team are in great heart and there is more self-belief.
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group