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Champions too strong as Malvern face tough target
5:00pm Tuesday 1st April 2014 in Rugby
MALVERN Rugby Club face a tough likely target of 15 points out of 20 available to avoid relegation from Midlands One West.
A spirited display was not enough to overturn champions Lichfield at Spring Lane in a 33-12 defeat.
Other results went against Malvern as Old Laurentians surprisingly beat Hereford and Berkswell and Balsall gained a bonus point at Stoke.
Malvern have four matches left to avoid relegation for the second year running.
However, the team are playing well enough to give hope to the Spring Lane faithful.
In front of a large crowd, determined Malvern began with purpose against Lichfield, taking the ball to their 22-metre area.
Phil Snare used his strength to make inroads and feed the ball out with skipper Ieuan Mustow, in his last game for the club, striding through to score a try.
Tom Longley added the extras but Lichfield responded swiftly by moving the ball at pace and lock Joe Thompson went over with Josh Massey converting.
As Lichfield fought to gain the upper hand, Malvern defended bravely and then shocked the visitors by turning over the ball.
Ben Essenhigh set off on a lightning break and Luke Milton followed up from full-back to score out wide and regain the lead.
The rest of the first-half was even with the hosts' back row of Stuart Clarke, Josh Parsons and Richard Preece tackling like demons, while the backs looked sharp.
Adam Dixon broke dangerously but the referee ruled there was crossing so a penalty relieved the pressure.
But Lichfield surged upfield late on and flanker Richard Burton went over with Massey’s conversion claiming the lead.
Malvern pressed in the second period and Lichfield attempted to counter-attack.
After Essenhigh's big kick, Malvern put in a controlled drive to the line but the ball went loose and was cleared.
Lichfield won a five-metre scrum and their own drive was finished off by Burton before Massey converted.
Malvern were again close to the Lichfield line when the ball went loose and Lichfield scored a breakaway try and conversion, this time through Nick Southern.
Then the visitors surged forward again and spead the ball wide for winger Jack Fielding to score a final try with Massey converting.