Regional 2 Midlands West

Malvern 5 Newent RFC 43

Newent enjoyed their first visit to Malvern’s Spring Lane ground, producing their best rugby for some weeks as they ran in seven tries for a convincing win a week last Saturday, reports SIMON BARKER.

Reliable set pieces and good work at the breakdown produced an abundance of possession, which Newent’s backs put to productive use, whilst the defence was unyielding.

Doug Long returned at full back for his first game since being injured at Stow in early December and made an immediate impact with his ability to glide through gaps where none seem to exist.

Fin Mellis’s injury against Shipston necessitated another new centre pairing, Will Hartland moving to inside centre and his bother Jim to outside centre.

There was a more familiar look to the starting pack, whilst the forward replacements were new acquisition James Marshall and Josh Miles, both who made impacts off the bench with strong carries.

The backs replacement was no less than Director of Rugby Joe Goatley, who continues to redefine the concept of ‘retirement’ and made a cameo appearance in the final stages of

the game.

The visitors were ahead inside three minutes, Phil Middlemiss crashing over from close range after Dan Fletcher probed deep into the 22 and the ball was recycled quickly to Newent’s veteran second row, who continues to carry with the enthusiasm of a man 20 years younger.

Tom Webb’s conversion was narrowly wide but he had no difficulty with adding the extras to Newent’s second try on ten minutes, as Jim Hartland took a pass from brother Will to cross by the posts, finishing some slick interplay by the backs sparked by Jacob Ivell running back a clearance.

The game was into its second quarter before the hosts threatened Newent’s line, but their driving maul from a penalty lineout 10m out was held up by the Green Army’s pack.

A strong carry from No 8 Franco Bent soon had Malvern back in the opposition 22, and when the hosts were penalised, quick thinking from Tom Webb initiated a try.

His quick tap and go put Dan Fletcher into space down the right wing and Newent’s skipper took play nearly to the Malvern 22 before he was stopped.

The ball was recycled and Webb executed a teasing cross-kick which left-wing Ivell gathered and ran round to touch down behind the posts.

Webb’s conversion extended the lead to 19-0 after just half-an-hour’s play.

Newent spent the remainder of the half pressing hard for the bonus point try, but the Malvern defence held firm and the half ended when the visitors were penalised for holding on just short of the line.

The bonus point try duly arrived early in the second half though, and a good one it was too.

More slick handling through the backs and a key incision from Doug Long set up Jacob Ivell for another run round behind the posts, Webb converting to extend the lead to 26-0.

Malvern responded with their best passage of play so far, their most threatening runner Jack Curtis – an early replacement in the centre for Rhys Goodfellow, who was injured in tackling Phil Middlemiss in full flight mode – stretching for the line to finish a multi-phased attack to make it 26-5.

Penalties against Newent soon had Malvern back in the visitors’ 22, but they were penalised themselves and the lineout from Webb’s long kick out of hand was the platform for another flowing backs move.

Will Hartland and Long breached the defence before finding Leo Oakey in support, and the openside capped a strong performance by touching down in the left-hand corner, Webb adding the extras with a fine kick for 33-5.

Having regained the initiative, Newent dominated the closing stages of the game and looked threatening with every attack.

They added further tries through Dan Fletcher on the right-wing, after Ivell had been stopped just short on the left to deny him a hat-trick, and Will Hartland, who was the beneficiary of a storming run from Jordan Devries, the latter touchdown capping a typically effective and intelligent performance in an unfamiliar position.

The final play of the game nearly produced an eighth try for Newent, as they launched another sweeping move from a scrum in their own half, but Devries was stopped just short after another strong carry.

No matter, this was a handsome win and as Dan Fletcher said afterwards “an enjoyable game” to play in – and watch, after the tense affairs of recent weeks.

Newent host Berkswell and Balsall this Saturday (February 17), while Ross RFC are scheduled to play at Tewkesbury the same day, followed by Minchinhampton at home on Saturday, February 24.