LEAGUE leaders Malvern visited North with a side showing eight changes from the previous week's bruising encounter at Hereford.

For the first quarter of an hour, the action took place in the North half and winger Ryan Henshaw burst through but put a foot in touch to give the home side a let off. This signalled the first foray into Malvern territory and the home side worked the ball around to suck in the away defence for lock Matt Scott to open the scoring against the run of play in the 16th minute, Matt Teague converted.

Malvern came back and three minutes later won a scrum, followed it with a maul then whipped the ball out for skipper Ryan Watkins to nip in and give Adam Dixon the extra two points to equalise.

However, as the game started to develop into an end-to-end affair, North put in a catch and drive and skipper Chris Dean went over for a 22nd minute try. Now it was the turn of the leaders to come back as stand-off Dixon put in a long kick into the North 22 metre area.

The line-out was fumbled, Malvern secured the ball and centre Ted Lang made a half break and the ball went wide for Henshaw to power in for a 27th minute equalising try.

Back came North, a pinpoint cross field kick on 31 minutes finding winger John Morrison as the Malvern defence were caught napping. Three minutes later Malvern full-back Richard Fleming went on a powerful run, setting up a move to Ryan Henshaw on the right, who got almost to the line for young hooker Luke Greenwood to gather and cross. With the scores once more level at 17-17, North had the last say of the half as they put in a punishing 40 metre drive to pull in the Malvern defence, before releasing the ball for centre Tony James to restore a five point lead at the break.

At the turn round, Malvern, having realised that the heavier North pack were starting to labour, at last reverted to their successful running style of rugby.

The line was attacked and the ball cleared, but Malvern had recovered their confidence and in the 49th minute Fleming again went on a foray upfield, the forwards drove on and the ball went out to Henshaw who ran in to level the scores once more. Malvern now started to open up North's defence with some good running and interplay, Will Clee and Christian Edwards finding gaps to set away big young prop Matt Newman to take the lead for Malvern for the first time in the match on 52 minutes.

Cheltenham North forced a penalty from the restart, Teague pulling back the three points, but when Malvern kicked off a poor collection attempt allowed flanker Stewart Clarke to gather and race in to extend Malvern's lead just before the hour mark.

For the last 20 minutes Malvern dictated most of the play, pinning North back in their own half, only some knock-ons and forward passes preventing a larger lead.

However, in the last minute man of the match Henshaw finished proceedings as he ran in to score under the posts and give Dixon a final simple conversion.