Spring Lane hosts shine but fall to late heartache

Spring Lane hosts shine but fall to late heartache

Spring Lane hosts shine but fall to late heartache

First published in Sport

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.

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