Newbury Blues 20 – 19 Marlborough
Frustrating……. On Saturday, the 1st XV went over the Berkshire boarder to play Newbury Blues in the Tribute South West 1 East league. It was a stunning autumn afternoon for spectators, more like summer, but the conditions for the players were harder due to the heat and hard ground. This was already expected to be a tough game.
Before the game kicked off, a minute’s silence was held for one of Newbury’s long-standing members, Chris Whittaker who had sadly passed away earlier in the year. This act of respect was echoed at all rugby matches held this weekend to remember all those who have sadly lost their lives during this ongoing pandemic.
This game was an extremely long and competitive match, and Marlborough did not make it any easier by getting off to the worst possible starts when scrum half, Jake Williams had a clearing box kick from the ‘Blue’s’ kick off, charged down and for them to go and immediately score under the posts. Fortunately, this was just about Jake’s only error in the whole match but definitely not the best way to settle any Marlborough nerves (especially the spectators).
Marlborough worked their way back into the game with a dominant scrum and solid defence. The attack was still looking a little rusty which was understandable due to injuries and work commitments, the starting backs had not played together before. Marlborough has so far played three games and each one has had a different starting fly half.
After nineteen minutes, Marlborough’s new 10, Solodrau Radianirova scored an extremely well executed individual try, which Jake Williams then converted. This was now a purple patch for Marlborough as the forwards were imposing their physicality and on thirty minutes Joe Pittams broke the Newbury line with a powerful direct run to set up Viliame Lotoahea, out on the wing to finish the try, but sadly the conversion was missed.
The Blue’s went on the offensive and started their fight back, scoring a converted try five minutes later. On the last play of the first half, Solodrau Radianova scored another superb individual try which was converted by Jake.
Half Time: Newbury Blues 12 – Marlborough 19
When the second half started, little did either team realise that it would last for almost sixty minutes even though there had been some stoppages for medical attention. Both teams were now going hammer and tongue and it was turning into a very exciting match with the physicality on both sides going up a gear. The spectators were loving it, the action was intense, heart rates were racing, neither side’s supporters dare look away from the pitch in case they missed anything – it’s great to have rugby back!
Sadly, Marlborough lost skipper, Ben Fulton to a shoulder injury, shortly followed by Viliame Lotoahea, to a head injury. Jimmy Adams (who answered the call from the ever so slightly stressed Team Manager and drove down overnight from the North to make himself available to play) where he went on to replace the Marlborough skipper – a true team player.
Newbury converted a penalty to bring them within striking distance of Marlborough’s score. Marlborough’s defence now went through a purple patch with two fantastic try saving tackles from Joe Pittams and the other from Ben Caravou. Ollie Spanswick, as we have now come to expect was having another first-class game (much to the annoyance of his former teammates at Newbury).
The front row consisting of Ash Horner (again, another full match without a break), Solomone Aniseko (Man of the match) and Lemeki Moala were all playing with massive intensity and intent. Marlborough suffered another blow when acting Captain, Jack Lynd was forced off due to an ankle injury which was a blow to the team as he is a very influential and physical number 8.
Heartbreakingly for Marlborough, Newbury Blues scored their winning try almost at the very end of the game. There was just time to restart, but Newbury gathered the ball and ran down the final few seconds to run out winners by one point. So close but so far, the final score was Newbury Blues 20 – Marlborough 19.
Marlborough had several young players included within the team and who again acquitted themselves admirably. Head Coach, Elisi Vunilpolo pointed out “that Tommy Elbrow had had his best game to date for Marlborough, rising up to the challenge that had been put before him.” Elisi was also keen to point out that “James Marshall and Joe Pittams, who have both come up through the junior age groups together, again impressed”. The Marlborough youngsters are on fire, they fear nothing and play with heart and commitment. Elisi was also very impressed with the maturity shown by “young Ben Caravou, playing out of position at full back, he was outstanding, going forward and particularly in defence”.
Arthur Fitzgibbon (Boris), who at only 18 years old, replaced the injured Jamie Pittams, started his first game of senior rugby after only playing in this, his third ever game for the 1st XV. When he came off the bench for the previous two matches, he very clearly showed how good a player he is and how easily he fits in with the team.
Marlborough is very lucky in that there is a fantastic pool of young talent coming through, some of which has gone through the different age grades of the Club. These are exciting times for the Club as there is a good mix of youth, set against experienced senior players who are delighted to pass on their knowledge and experience to the younger lads. Team morale is solid, the boys believe in each other and what they can achieve. Next week the 1st XV are away to Witney and they know work will need to be done this week during training on their weaknesses from this game, but the future looks bright for Marlborough.