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
Banbury 29 - 33 Marlborough
Marlborough made the journey to Banbury to play against a strong Banbury outfit who had been on an eight-game winning run. Their Club and stadium are hugely impressive and certainly shows where Marlborough’s aspirations are aimed.
Head Coach, Elisi Vunipola, was looking to build on last week’s strong win over Wimborne on the Common to keep the side on the tails of the league leaders. Banbury started the game well, but it was Marlborough who scored first after thirteen minutes. A quick penalty was taken with good work from the forwards, was able to build a number of phases and eventually Epeli Kotobalavu managed to dive over from close range. Jake Williams' conversion went wide to leave it 5-0.
Banbury responded well and on nineteen minutes, Ed Phillips kicked a penalty, given for offside, to reduce the lead to Banbury 3 - Marlborough 5. Semisi Rasivo saw yellow for a knock on and Banbury capitalised on the man advantage to take the lead with Ian Isham going over at the base of a ruck. Phillips converted for a Banbury lead of 10-5.
Banbury extended their lead before half time, when Isham again went over following a good maul from a lineout. This time the conversion was missed but Banbury lead 15-5.
Marlborough replied by working the ball into the Banbury 22 and scored a try after a good driving maul from a lineout, again Epeli Kotobalavu, gathering at the base before driving over for his second try. The conversion was missed, and the half time score was 15-10.
Early in the second half Jake Williams kicked a penalty that was given for offside to narrow the deficit to 15-13 and once again the game was very tight. Both teams’ defenders were working incredibly hard as the two sides looked to build a lead. However. it was Banbury who were to score next when a knock on lead to a kick through and Tom Burman scored under the posts. Phillips' conversion gave the home side a 22-13 lead.
Vunipola made a tactical change when an injury to Ben Fulton forced him off and so Amori Nailago was moved to centre and Macdonald Lewis came on at outside half. Lewis began to tactically kick and pin back Banbury deep in their own half. The pressure told and Phillips was shown a yellow card for a ruck infringement. Marlborough's scrum half, Williams, showed great game awareness to continually to move the ball to the spaces. Unfortunately for full back Garth Bari, who had made a number of good breaks, he had to limp off and despite his injury Fulton returned. Soon after, he gathered a cross field kick provided by Lewis Macdonald and touched down. The wide out conversion missed but the lead was cut to 22-18.
Banbury showed fantastic defence, but now Marlborough sensed the comeback was on and they kept up the pressure. Nailago showed his individual finishing skills to score on the seventy-minute mark and Williams' conversion made it 25-22.
Once the game restarted Marlborough quickly got on the offensive again and Kotobalavu completed his hat-trick with another drive over the line. Williams' conversion made it 32-22 and Marlborough finally had a good lead as the game reached the final phases.
Banbury weren't done though, and huge credit goes to them in realising that a strong finish would still give them 2 bonus points. They worked hard and Ed Berridge got over from a scrum, Phillips added the extras for a 32-29 final score.
Many thanks go to Banbury RFC, all their staff and players for being such hospitable and welcoming hosts for what was one of the most exciting games of the season so far. The large crowd making it a great occasion. Head Coach Elisi Vunipola, commented on what was probably one of the best wins that he had seen from his side since he had taken over. Next week the team look forward to visit of Beaconsfield to the Common.
Jamie Pittams takes on the Stratford defence supported by Ash Horner
Marlborough 44 - 0 Stratford-upon-Avon
Saturday’s fixture welcomed Stratford Upon Avon to The Common in grey, damp and miserable conditions. After a brilliant team performance last time out at Salisbury, Marlborough were firm favourites to take the points in this tie. Stratford-Upon-Avon, who have only won one game all season would have to put in a top performance to challenge Marlborough.
Todd Johnson scoring
Salisbury 28 - 41 Marlborough
On the first day of Advent, both sets of fans opened their doors to a magnificent game of rugby at Salisbury. The sun was out, and the recent cold weather relented to provide perfect conditions for the players. Marlborough, on the back of a home defeat to Royal Wootton Bassett felt this was a good opportunity to return to winning ways, despite a number of injuries causing selection complications.