MALVERN went close in a 37-34 home defeat to rivals Hereford which at least gave hope of avoiding relegation from Midlands One West.

In a pulsating game at Spring Lane, Malvern stunned their third-placed visitors with a controlled first-half display.

With the wind at their backs, they stormed to Hereford's line from kick-off, stealing a five-metre scrum for Jordan Hillier to go over with Tom Longley converting.

The Wyesiders hit back, winning a line-out after a hasty clearance and centre Tom Ewins sped through for an unconverted effort.

Malvern secured the restart and put in a massive forward drive to the line with number eight Jamie Anderson going over and Longley again adding the extras.

As Malvern's pack dominated in the loose, they forced a penalty and Longley stretched the lead. But Hereford marched into home territory and won a five-metre scrum with Ewins scoring and Dean Powell converting.

Malvern put Hereford in trouble at their scrum as Hillier snaffled the ball and Adam Dixon went over, giving Longley another conversion after only 23 minutes.

Skipper Ieuan Mustow then intercepted and sped on a 60-metre run to stretch the lead to 29-12, securing a try bonus before half-time.

With the wind advantage now with Hereford, their feisty pack forced desperate defence and the penalty count mounted.

Perry Pudge scored a try with Powell converting and then adding an easy penalty.

More pressure resulted in a controlled drive and number eight Alistair McColl grounded with Powell’s kick levelling on the hour.

From another scrum, flanker Chris Allman went over to give the visitors the lead for the first time.

Malvern hit back when Ben Essenhigh put in a kick and chase and Mustow tied the scores up at 34-34 only for Powell to nudge them ahead with a penalty.

In a barnstorming finish, Malvern put in repeated attacks but had to be content with two bonus points.

However, it was a big improvement on the previous week’s mauling at Burton.

Malvern need to maintain the standards with a crunch game at Kenilworth a week tomorrow perhaps holding the key to survival in the division.