MALVERN are in serious relegation trouble after suffering a 72-26 drubbing at second-placed Burton in Midlands One West.
The third-from-bottom side paid dearly for fielding a much-changed line-up from the one that ran Walsall so close in a 29-26 defeat the previous week.
The thrashing, coupled with other results going against Malvern, has left the Spring Lane side deep in the relegation zone.
With high-flying rivals Hereford next to visit tomorrow (3pm) and the prospect of leaders Lichfield looming, Malvern's players will seriously need to raise their game to avoid the ignominy of relegation for two years running.
They also have difficult visits to Whitchurch and Kenilworth to come in the last six matches.
Burton's well-drilled back-line opened the scoring in the second minute and thereafter it was a case of the floodgates opening as woeful tackling allowed the strong running home three-quarters to seemingly score at will.
The Malvern pack looked fairly effective driving in the loose, but careless handling allowed Burton several turn-overs and several times they stripped the ball out and ran from their own 22-metre area to score.
It was not until Malvern were 31-0 down that they started putting pressure on the Staffordshire side, pushing closer to the Burton line until skipper Ieuan Mustow jinked through to score and set up Tom Longley’s conversion.
Just before half-time, Malvern stripped the ball deep in their own half and Longley set off on a 60-metre solo run to claw back another five points.
The half ended with Malvern taking some semblance of control, but unfortunately it was not to last.
The second period began like the first with four tries in the first 10 minutes as the Burton backs again cut through an almost non-existent defence.
They had racked up a 58-12 lead before Malvern could respond.
George Roberts put in a blistering run down the wing and Richard Preece, Malvern’s man-of-the-match, was on hand to score and set up Longley’s conversion.
With renewed heart, Malvern again took control of the game for a while and Jamie Anderson picked up to set up a Longley break with the stand-off sending Roberts in for a converted try and the try bonus point.
However, Burton had the final say when they turned over Malvern ball once more and broke from defence for a try.