MALVERN under 17s’ trophy hopes were ended with a second knockout defeat in seven days, going down 31-24 at Birmingham and Solihull.

This time, it was the North Midlands Cup semi-final which saw a return to Portway to play the only side who beat Malvern during the regular league campaign.

But there was a sadly familiar start for the visitors, who have too often been caught cold and conceded simple early scores that have left them trying to play catch-up rugby.

In the fourth minute, Malvern conceded a free-kick at a scrum in front of their own posts and, when the Bees player tapped and went, he crossed with ease.

Jack Travis' penalty a few minutes later reduced the arrears but the Bees continued to threaten and went further ahead midway through the half.

A high cross-kick from halfway was well judged but the bounce could not have been kinder for their left winger to take it and score in the corner.

Seven minutes later, a third try had echoes of the first, this time a penalty was conceded at a five-metre scrum and the tap-and-go effort was repeated.

Malvern, at 19-3 down, could have been facing a hiding but a superb tackle by Christian Jakeman prevented further damage with the right wing covering the left to stop the Bees virtually on the try line.

The escape seemed to give the visitors heart and they gradually fought their way back into the game, gaining a better share of possession and territory.

It was no less than they deserved when, a minute before half-time, concerted pressure led to a Max Hill score, which was converted by Travis.

The second-half was a tense but even affair with a contrast in styles.

Bees tried to put width on the play, while Malvern preferred the more direct approach, launching their powerful runners through the centre.

Twice Bees added to their lead but each time Malvern responded within minutes.

The back-row combination of Myles Edwards and Max Hill were to the fore to put the latter in for his second try and then Nathan Beasley-Suffolk produced a fine individual effort.

He was the leading chaser when a long Malvern penalty kick stayed infield on the home 22 and his charge down of the attempted clearance bounced over the line for the follow-up touchdown.

Travis, immaculate off the kicking tee despite a tricky wind, converted both to leave the score at 31-24 but, despite great late efforts by Malvern, the hosts held on to clinch their place in the final.