MALVERN Rugby Club were condemned to a second successive relegation after a late Berkswell and Balsall try ensured a 31-26 defeat at Spring Lane.

In a pulsating home league finale, the effort two minutes from time saved the Warwickshire visitors from the drop.

But Malvern have now slipped from National League Three South West to Midlands Two via Midlands One West in consecutive seasons.

Despite falling behind to a 13th-minute try, the hosts played attractive, open rugby.

Winning a penalty, Luke Milton joined the line and the ball was fed out to Tom Hale, who sped in for a 20th-minute try.

Malvern dominated the open play, playing to their strengths by bringing the speedy backs into the game.

However, a forward struck next as number eight Richard Preece broke through a hesitant defence to set up Adam Dixon’s conversion for the lead.

Malvern pounded Berkswell's defence and three minutes later the ball was quickly moved across for Jack Cooney to go over. Dixon’s superb conversion from wide took the score to 19-7.

They looked in control and when Hale went over for his second score on the stroke of half-time and Dixon converted again, a try bonus point was earned.

Home hopes were rising but Berkswell recognised their opponents' Achilles heel of poor scrummaging without front-row specialists.

Berkswell were determined to play possession rugby in the second-half and in a 15-minute period bagged two tries to get within a score of Malvern.

Desperate home defence kept the score at 26-19 until eight minutes from the end but a yellow card for Phil Snare reduced them to 14 men.

Berkswell’s powerful scrum then out-muscled Malvern for the number eight to ground the ball and set up a conversion.

With the score at 26-24 in the hosts' favour, the visitors again drove deep into Malvern territory for the eight to secure another converted try.

Malvern did not give up and headed back upfield but the ball went dead and their relegation was confirmed. The story of their season was one of 'if only' – a specialist front row would have provided a platform for the talented backs.

Most games were lost in the final quarter as sides took advantage of this area.

Malvern head coach Nick Tisdale admitted: “We can only play with what we have available and all of our people who have turned up in the front row have little or no experience of playing there.

"They have done their best and given 100 per cent so I applaud them for that.

"Had we been able to field experienced props, we would, I’m sure, have been comfortably mid-table or higher.

"As it is, we have to take relegation on the chin and rebuild next season.

"With good youngsters coming through and a few new players recruited, I am optimistic about the future of the rugby club.”

Malvern visit Kenilworth on Saturday for a final rearranged league fixture.

They then host Worcester Wanderers in the North Midlands Cup semi-finals on Saturday, May 3.