Salisbury 10 – 22 Marlborough
On Saturday, the 1st XV travelled across to Salisbury to play the return leg of the league games. This was Marlborough’s first game since playing Swindon on December 3, 2022. Obviously, Christmas came in the middle of this break, which meant maybe one or two excesses may have been enjoyed by the players. Would this be the turning point for Marlborough? Salisbury very much hoped so!
During the warmup, the heavens opened, and monsoon-like conditions erupted. Thankfully, this managed to stop before the game started, but it did make the ground conditions more difficult for all.
Marlborough started well and scored after six minutes following an attacking scrum. The ball was picked up at the base by Joe Visei, who tied in two defenders before passing to scrumhalf Will Grant, who in turn popped the ball to the flying fullback, Will Reeve. Will outpaced his opposite number to score in the corner, but sadly unconverted.
Marlborough continued their early dominance when, after eleven minutes, they won a scrum against the head, followed by simple hands along the line to Weir Filikitonga, who scored in the opposite corner. Again, Will Grant was unable to convert.
Marlborough’s dominance continued, but the numerous unforced handling errors were becoming their undoing. The conditions did play a part in this, but by no means was it solely down to the weather. Eventually the dominance did pay off when Lemeki Moala, following another scrum against the head that set up several acting phases, ended up with Meki crashing over the line to score. This one was converted by Will Grant. Despite continued pressure from Marlborough, that was the last score for the visitors in this first half.
Half-Time: Salisbury 0 – Marlborough 17
There was no panic at the halftime talk, although the first half had been strewn with errors. Simple, clear instructions were given by the coaches, Elisi and Vili.
Marlborough started the second half looking as though they would continue to dominate, but when a Marlborough try beckoned, Salisbury intercepted a pass and ran the length of the field to score despite a heroic chase from Callum Hunt, who tackled the Salisbury player on the line. The chase wasn’t in vain, as Callum had forced the touch down in the corner, thus saving the extra two points when it looked certain to be a try under the posts as the conversion was going to be much harder due to the wind.
This effort did breathe life into the home side, and with the crowd behind them, they were starting to give Marlborough some uncomfortable moments. Marlborough’s defence held firm until a carbon copy of Salisbury’s first try happened—the dreaded interception. Marlborough was attacking the Salisbury 22 when Salisbury intercepted them. This was followed by some excellent support play from the Salisbury line, and they scored, but again it was unconverted.
The momentum was now well and truly with Salisbury. But to Marlborough’s credit, and although playing far from their best, they dug in, defended extremely well, and continued to push for the bonus point try, which finally came in the seventy-eighth minute. Following another dominant scrum and several phases of play, Gareth Smith scored under the posts but was unable to convert by Will Grant.
Salisbury did mount one final attack, which resulted in a massive double tackle from Ben Fulton and Weir Filikitonga, causing the Salisbury player to spill the ball into touch. Game over.
Final Score: Salisbury 10 – Marlborough 22
This game showed how much the enforced break had affected the 1st XV, and there were many errors during the game, both in handling the ball and in their decision-making. Sadly, going forward, the team has lost inspirational back row player James Marshall (Vice Captain), who has fractured his jaw again and will be absent for the remainder of the season. Joe Visei came off with a knee injury and could also be out for a lengthy spell.
Team manager Dave Pittams explained, “There are positives that the boys can take away; they came away with another bonus point win.” As expected, the front row was outstanding, including Bradley Whatley. Also, Henry Webster is improving with each game he plays. “After his long layoff due to injury,”
Dave then went onto discuss “Man of the Match” player, Siaosi Feaomefiui (Toti), who is a very versatile back and is still quite young, but he is consistently playing at a high level. Then, of course, there is 19-year-old Arthur Allen, who is continuing to gain experience. “The mature heads and leadership from the likes of Ben Fulton in midfield and Will Reeve at fullback are paying dividends and helping the younger, less experienced players enormously.”