MALVERN under 17s maintained their North Midlands League challenge with a crucial 45-27 win over a dogged Sutton Coldfield team.

Sutton were in third place just behind Malvern with only points difference separating the top trio.

The visitors opened the scoring early on when their speedy full-back outpaced the home defence down the left to cross in the corner.

Malvern were solid in the scrum but the breakdown was extremely competitive and both teams were prone to conceding penalties.

The hosts hit back with two tries in five minutes through Jack Travis after a pass from assured full-back Tom Waller and the fly-half then converted Myles Edwards’ effort.

Although Sutton reduced the lead with a penalty, the hosts were ahead 12-8 at the break and soon added two further tries thanks to Harri Claxton following a Will Carter break and Edwards again after a quick tap penalty.

With Travis converting both, Malvern should have been comfortable but took their foot off the pedal and Sutton scored three tries in 10 minutes.

Malvern countered through Max Hill and they led 33-27 with more than 10 minutes left before Laurie Essenhigh burrowed under the defence for one of his trademark scores close to the ruck.

With the last play, centre George Cox cut in from the right to go under the posts and March Cossali-Francis added his second conversion.