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NEW director of rugby Dave Irish started his competitive Malvern reign with a 27-16 win at former club Ludlow.

Any fears of an embarrassing return in the North Midlands Shield second round were scotched by an effective second-half display after an even first 40 minutes.

Malvern started brightly, winning several penalties with an expansive game.

Adam Dixon broke and youngster Will Elt, playing at number eight, repeated his feat of the previous week by scoring within the first five minutes. Dixon converted.

Malvern were full of running and gave the blanket home defence a torrid time.

Having lost Elt to a knee injury, Malvern brought Stuart Clarke into the back row.

But an interception against the run of play saw Ludlow’s winger score in the corner.

The visitors stepped up the pace, winning a penalty in front of the posts which Dixon despatched with ease.

It was all Malvern with the scrum holding firm against a heavier pack but a home foray upfield, again against the run of play, saw them go over in the corner to level at 10-10.

Then, although Ludlow won a defensive scrum, it was disrupted by lively back-row pressure.

From the loose ball, Tom Hale narrowly won a kick-and-chase to touch down and regain the lead for the Spring Lane men.

However, Ludlow again used their big forwards to advantage with a dubious penalty making the half-time score 15-13.

Playing upfield in the second period, Malvern continued their high-tempo game.

Skipper Luke Milton found prop Grant Fraser to speed over and touch down with Dixon’s conversion putting Malvern two scores clear.

Richard Hobbs suffered a hamstring injury and Irish rang the changes, bringing on Joe Budd at scrum-half and moving James Southall out on to the wing.

James Swain went to hooker and George Withers to loose-head as the scrum appeared even more solid.

They produced a classic team move along the line with Hale jinking his way out of tight opposition cover for the killer try.

Ludlow scored from a late penalty but Malvern closed the game out to progress to the quarter-finals.

They begin their Midlands Two West (South) campaign a week on Saturday at Old Leamingtonians at 3pm.

For pictures, see this week's Malvern Gazette.