Mitieli Vulikijapani's diving over to score
Marlborough 26 - 24 Newbury
Newbury Blues travelled to the Common as firm favourites. Unbeaten all season, the Blues provided formidable opposition for Elisi’s men. Marlborough who narrowly beat league strugglers Witney last week knew the importance of this tie in their push for a promotion spot. The reverse fixture at Monks Lane was shaded by Newbury, but Marlborough would be seeking redemption. On paper this was set to be a classic and the spectators were not disappointed.
Moree Nailago, Ben Fulton and Russell Westcott
Marlborough 15 - 18 Beaconsfield
After winning a classic last week at high-flying Banbury, Marlborough had the chance to consolidate their position of third in the table at home to Beaconsfield today. It was another typically soggy, damp and bitter cold January day up at The Common which provided the setting.
Beaconsfield started proceedings and were attacking down the hill. The game started competitively with a number of strong tackles going in. Beaconsfield had the better of the early minutes and got their noses in front with a try on eight minutes. They showed their passing and handling ability when they spread the ball swiftly left and the winger burst through to the corner. The try was not converted, but nevertheless Marlborough had been caught off guard early on and went behind. 0-5.
With some of the key players unavailable, Marlborough potentially lacked some of their normal attacking prowess and it showed in the first twenty minutes. Marlborough barely held possession and Beaconsfield continued on top. However, on nineteen minutes, Marlborough got themselves back on level terms. After a good scrum, Russell Westcott got on the end of a neat grubber kick. Jake Williams, filling in kicking duties, kicked narrowly wide. Against the run of play, Marlborough were back in the game. 5-5.
Marlborough were unable to assert their usual dominance in the scrum against a brave Beaconsfield pack. Similarly, Marlborough struggled at the lineouts, missing the skill of the Captain, Jamie Pittams. However, with fifteen minutes remaining in the half, the Beaconsfield full back was sinbinned for a high-tackle on Russell Westcott after breaking the line. From the resulting penalty, MacDonald Lewis kicked to touch. After the lineout the ball was put straight into a maul and the pack powerfully pushed to the try line. Epeli Kotobalavu was the man to touch down. Jake Williams’ kick struck the post and came back. 10-5.
Marlborough were keen to stretch their lead before the interval and piled on the pressure. Despite a number of brave try-line stops from the Beaconsfield defence, eventually Marlborough broke through. The ball was spread wide from a five-metre lineout to Russell Westcott for his second try of the game. The kick for the conversion again just went wide. However, Marlborough were 15-5 ahead at the break.
MacDonald Lewis’ kick-off was blown backwards by the wind, perhaps foreshadowing the imminent attacking surges from Beaconsfield. Right from the whistle they looked hungry. After just three second-half minutes they had converted a penalty from underneath the posts following a spell of dangerous play.
Five minutes later, they came forward once more and a delightful chipped kick was latched onto skilfully by the Beaconsfield attacker and he scored under the posts. The kick was taken with ease to level the scores at fifteen-a-piece. 15-15.
The momentum of the game had swung in their favour, and although the game turned scrappy, one fancied Beaconsfield to take the next points. On sixty minutes, Beaconsfield had a good phase of pressure and won another penalty. Beaconsfield opted to aim for the posts, and it was the right choice. The kicker converted tidily once more. They edged in front for the second time in the game. 15-18.
With fifteen minutes of the game remaining, Marlborough needed to make something happen to get something from the game. They pushed and pushed, but Beaconsfield defended resiliently. Marlborough potentially made a costly error when they were awarded a penalty ten metres from the line and decided to go for the scrum rather than take the points. Nothing resulted from the scrum and Beaconsfield cleared.
The pressure continued, and Marlborough did just about everything but score. Credit to Beaconsfield who put in a spirited performance and held on to the bitter end.
Marlborough face tenth placed Chippenham next week away from home. They will need to bounce back with a win to continue their push for promotion
Henry Webster, Joe Visei and Moree NailagoLotu Ngungutau, Lemeki Moala and Jake Williams