MALVERN Rugby Club suffered their first Midlands Two West (South) defeat of the season after starting with seven straight wins.

They lost 31-8 at home to Stratford who stretched their lead over third-placed Malvern to seven points having played a game more.

The visitors to Spring Lane were worthy winners on the day with a hard-running, diligent display.

Malvern were without the experienced Rob Cook but Harvey Smedley made his first XV debut after impressing for the seconds this season.

Both teams and sets of supporters paid their respects with a minute’s silence for the late John Barker who had been a member of Malvern for many decades.

The hosts scored first through a Dan Batty penalty after an offside offence and Stratford missed a similar kick of their own.

But the visitors’ forwards then established a good position inside Malvern’s 22 and the ball was spread for the winger to go over.

Despite having a man advantage after a Stratford sin-binning, Malvern failed to capitalise and conceded a second try to a powerful driving maul.

Malvern hit back with their first try after going through the phases before Laurie Essenhigh put the ball down the blindside where Luke Milton barged over in the corner.

However, Stratford surged ahead with two quick tries to lead by 18 points at the break.

They then showed off their defensive quality to keep Malvern scoreless during the second period despite the home side enjoying a lot of possession.

Stratford sealed the win five minutes from time after their flanker gobbled up a loose lineout to score as Malvern’s 10-game unbeaten streak in all competitions was ended.

Malvern look to bounce back on Saturday against leaders Nuneaton Old Edwardians at Spring Lane (2.15pm).

Midlands Four West (South) high-fliers Upton were handed a walkover at lowly Dunlop while Bromyard lost 31-13 at leaders Old Wheatleyans.

Upton host Tenbury on Saturday and Bromyard welcome Old Yardleians.