ONE penalty apiece wouldn't normally signify a great game of rugby but this clash between the top two in the league left the spectators almost as exhausted as the players, such was the excitement generated on the field.

Malvern came into the game having made eight changes from the previous week, many forced through injury. The two wingers, James Kirkpatrick and Hugh Dimond, plus young hooker Matt Humphries all made their senior debuts, whilst Richard Fleming returned to the centre, Christian Edwards came in at flanker and Matt Richardson and Dave Merlin started at prop and number eight respectively.

With Rawle, Cooper, Hynes and Wenden missing from the pack and Jamie Gwynne moving to his normal scrum half position, the new look Malvern were expecting a tough afternoon, and they duly went on the defensive for most of the first half as Lichfield put in wave after wave of attack.

However, Malvern soaked up everything that was thrown at them as they held their discipline, evidenced by a far lower penalty count against them than in previous matches. Hobbs and Edwards were inspirational in their tackling, the front five held their own and the line-out was evenly contested as Lichfield tried to power through. Malvern's backs were equal to anything offered by the home unit and as half time approached all they had to how for the territorial dominance was a penalty for offside. Even the loss of Merlin to the sin bin for ten minutes didn't disrupt Malvern's rearguard as they held out until the break.

The second half brought about a complete turn round as Malvern came out at the Staffordshire side, Richard Fleming making inroads in the centre. Malvern were benefiting from the quick service Gwynne was giving Watkins, who was able to sit deeper in the pocket and engineer moves with the extra time allowed. With the tussle up front still even, Malvern started to nudge ahead in the line out as Chris Smith started to dominate in the last quarter.

The Hobbs and Edwards pairing turned over several Lichfield moves and Dimond twice got close to the line, one certain try stopped a metre out by a fabulous tackle by the full back. The pressure paid off as Lang put over a penalty to even the scores but the excitement didn't let up until the excellent young referee blew the final whistle.