APPEARING in their third North Midlands Cup final, Malvern's hopes of being the conquering underdogs was foiled on a wet and muddy Stourbridge RFC pitch.

The torrential rain and a previous game had rendered the playing surface a morass, suiting the big Solihull pack far more. With the ball behaving like a bar of soap, Malvern's natural instinct to run it from deep in their own half got them into trouble several times, dropped passes and knocks on conceding the advantage to the Solihull pack that featured several ex-professionals from the parent Pertemps Bees club.

When attempting to secure the ball, the doughty Malvern pack couldn't beat the Solihull forwards at the mauling game, and the experienced back row gave Malvern's midfield players no space in which to work.

A driving maul paved the way to the opening score in the 14th minute, then Malvern fought their way into the Solihull half, forcing a series of penalties for Ryan Watkins to pull back three points. Try as they might, Malvern were unable to match the power and mastery of the conditions shown by Solihull, who kicked their way repeatedly to positions deep inside the Malvern half.

When the Malvern line-out won ball repeatedly on the Solihull throw-in, possession was too often conceded through naïve decision-making and the Warwickshire side continued to put a stranglehold on the game.

Just before half-time, the Malvern defensive line was breached for a second time for a converted try and a score of 14-3 at the turn round.

With more of the same in the second half, Solihull crept further ahead with two penalties, and even when they lost the scrum-half for 10 minutes, Malvern were unable to make the extra man count, mainly because of the efforts of the opposing back row.

Indeed, only after the match was put out reach by a penalty try for interference during a chase for the line, did Malvern pick up their game, employing pick-and-drive moves which were far better suited to the conditions. Richard Fleming was unlucky not to break free for a score towards the end, but Solihull emerged as worthy winners on the day.

David Robins, Malvern's director of rugby said: "Solihull played the conditions far better than us, they used all the experience at their disposal and were far more streetwise. However, our lads have put in some great efforts this season in a period of rebuilding, and will have learned a lot from today.

"We hope to strengthen the side in the close season with a mixture of new and returning players so we can make a determined push for promotion."