MALVERN were robbed of a rare Spring Lane win when losing 27-23 to Stoke after leading for most of the Midlands One West game.
The injury jinx struck again in the warm-up when Jamie Anderson suffered an ankle problem, resulting in a last-minute reshuffling of the back row.
Mid-table Stoke were full of confidence after a shock win over runaway leaders Lichfield but found fifth-from-bottom Malvern to be a sterner test than perhaps anticipated.
From kick-off, the hosts took control and snaffled a loose ball with Ryan Watkins gathering and booting ahead.
Jon Bywater collected on the follow-up and provided Ben Essenhigh with the opening try which Tom Longley converted.
Stoke moved into the Malvern 22 and full-back Andy Marsh kicked a penalty but their next attack was stifled by Richard Preece.
Phil Snare was sin-binned but Malvern made light of the loss and put in a long-distance driving maul before winning a five-metre scrum.
The ball was moved quickly to Richard Fleming, who kicked a drop goal to restore the seven-point lead.
Stoke, with their dangerous backs moving the ball well, hit back before hooker Sam Yorke went over with Marsh’s conversion levelling the scores. This signalled a resurgence by Stoke but Malvern’s defence was equal to the task.
As the home forwards responded with a series of drives, Stoke repeatedly offended and lost a player to the sin-bin. Stoke’s defence then killed the ball and Malvern hoped for a penalty try but instead were awarded a scrum.
However, they won a freekick which Fleming took on the burst to set up Longley’s conversion, restoring the seven-point lead at half-time.
The second period carried on at a frenetic pace as Malvern repulsed a Stoke attack then countered with James Southall breaking and winning a penalty that Longley slotted over.
Marsh responded with a penalty when Malvern killed the ball to signal a long period of Stoke possession. Fleming was yellow carded as penalties were conceded but their defence held firm until Robert Spruce scored after receiving a pass which seemed forward.
Marsh’s conversion made it 23-20 with six minutes left and all Malvern’s good work was undone when replacement winger Will Sant ran through to score a converted try with two minutes left.
Stoke went ahead for the first time and snatched the points, despite a good performance from Malvern.