MALVERN Rugby Club gave an encouraging display in a 26-12 friendly home defeat to Bridgnorth.

The Spring Lane hosts were missing 11 first-choice players due to holidays or work issues.

Bridgnorth, with only a few regulars out, are favourites to win Midlands Two West (North) this season.

In the first 20 minutes, the Shropshire side’s massive pack had Malvern under the cosh at set-pieces.

Despite putting the home line under threat, fine defending by Midlands Two West (South) outfit Malvern kept them at bay.

By the end of the quarter, the home side put together useful attacking moves from deep in their own half.

But then the stone-a-man advantage in the pack saw Bridgnorth take the game to Malvern and score twice.

But Malvern began to win ball at the scrum as new prop Craig Freeman, from Kings Norton, and hooker George Withers, back from Tenbury, started to gel.

Will Elt, who has joined from Worcester youth and the King’s School, won good line-out ball against giants in the Bridgnorth pack.

Ben King, a centre from Tenbury, also looked useful.

Malvern struck back through established players before the half-time break as James Southall broke to feed Tom Hale, who was just run into touch.

A home penalty brought Hale into the action again and he sped through to score with King’s conversion making it 12-7 at the break.

The third quarter was all about Malvern as they grew in confidence and ran the ball repeatedly at the visitors.

Southall disrupted his opposite number at a Bridgnorth scrum, stealing the ball which was quickly whipped across to Nick Clarke, who scored in the corner to level at 12-12.

Strong Malvern defence created an attacking move when centre-turned-loosehead Grant Fraser went on a barrelling run.

In the last 20 minutes, Bridgnorth reasserted their dominance in the tight and powered into the Malvern half.

But it was a kick and chase which saw them regain the lead through their speedy left wing, who made full use of the bounce of the ball to run in under the posts.

Bridgnorth’s tricky stand-off finished proceedings as he burst through a gap in a tiring defence to score.

Despite the reverse, Malvern can take much from the friendly.

The fitness levels in pre-season are the best for some time and show the benefits coach Billy McGinty has brought.

When the full team is available, they hope this will translate to success on the field after successive relegations.

Malvern host Wolverhampton in a final warm-up a week tomorrow before an away cup match at Ludlow on Saturday, September 6.