Midlands Two West (South)
Malvern 8-31 Stratford-upon-Avon
STRATFORD produced arguably their best performance of the season so far on Saturday to dominate title hopefuls Malvern at Spring Lane from start to finish.
The Black and Whites team and their healthy travelling support had to battle some traffic around Worcester, with some players not arriving until ten minutes before kick-off which led to a few changes to the starting line-up while the late arrivals could warm up sufficiently.
Following the disjointed pre-match routines, it was no surprise that Malvern started the brighter of the two high-flying teams.
Stratford’s try-line defence was severely tested, leading to a penalty for offside that Malvern duly slotted to take a 3-0 lead.
This seemed to galvanise Stratford, who imposed their own pressure for the next period of the game.
A Stratford line-out on the Malvern 22 led to a big drive from young prop Liam Vose followed by further thrusts by prop Tom Stanley and No 8 Si Greenwood.
That allowed 18-year-old debutant scrum half Max Haines to unleash the backs and following some clever play, the prolific Dan Whitby scored his 12th try of the season to make it 5-3 in Stratford’s favour.
With the teams sitting second and third respectively in the league, the game was expected to be a ding-dong affair, and it was no surprise that Malvern had the next period of dominance.
The Spring Lane outfit hammered away at the Stratford line and despite a sin bin for skipper Matt Cook, the Black and Whites’ line was not breached after some heroic defensive sets.
Stratford then scored next, with Vose touching down after a very effective driving maul from a line-out.
Malvern managed to get back into the game through a try of their own.
Several pick-and-go’s allowed them to get into a strong position inside the Stratford half.
The Malvern scrum half decided to put the ball down the blindside, for the winger to wrestle over in the corner.
This would be the last time that Malvern troubled the scorers, though.
Stratford completed an extremely impressive first half with a second try from Whitby and another from man of the match flanker Dan Dunmore after a dummy gave him space in the corner.
At half-time, Stratford were 26-8 up and had the bonus point in the bag.
The second half was less free-flowing, with Stratford relying on their defence to soak up any Malvern pressure that came their way.
Both teams had further sin bins and despite Malvern having the lion’s share of possession, it was Stratford that were the only team to add to their first-half score.
Angus Wightman, snaffling a loose line-out, run past a few Malvern defenders and romp in from 30 metres.
This try topped off an amazing result and effort from the Pearcecroft men.
At the end of match the players made a point of celebrating with the substantial travelling fans.
Stratford host Sutton Coldfield-based Spartans on Saturday.