Witney 19 – 20 Marlborough
Last Saturday, Marlborough were away to the Oxfordshire side Witney, in their fourth league game (Tribute South West 1 East) of the season. Again, we were spoilt with a warm autumnal afternoon, expectations were high after last weeks narrowest of defeats against Newbury Blues. Sadly, life was not playing ball for the 1st XV side. There were last minute pull outs through illness, then players were getting caught up in the fuel fiasco and one of the favourites, major traffic issues on route to Witney. Eventually an eighteen-man squad turned up at the ground, sadly some of it at the expense of the 2nd XV (Nomads) who were themselves starting their season with their first game at home, on the Common against Trowbridge 2nds.
So, after a rather stressful start to the day for Marlborough, frankly things did not improve a great deal. After a bright start from the youngster, Arthur Fitzgibbon, from Witney’s kick off, much of the first half was a catalogue of errors and missed opportunities. Although Marlborough did have a well worked first half try disallowed, but there was also some rather lax defensive work which allowed Witney through for a converted try after about half an hour. This is not what the Marlborough supporters are used to seeing, very little free flowing ball for Marlborough, instead just the repetition of line out’s, scrums, kicks and Witney driving forward. Marlborough seemed to be struggling with how to deal with Witney who were relishing this opportunity, they were not going to take their foot off the pedal. One of the positives that Marlborough could take from the first half is that they had only allowed Witney to get ahead by seven points.
Half Time Score: Witney 7 – Marlborough 0.
The second half started a little more brightly for Marlborough with a well taken individual try from fly-half Aaron James which was then converted by Jake Williams. On the 50-minute mark, Jake William’s put a further three points on the board for Marlborough from a penalty. Then Marlborough’s defensive frailties returned, allowing Witney to score a rather soft converted try a few minutes later.
For a brief period, this seemed to ignite the fire in the bellies of the Marlborough squad. The Marlborough front row consisting of Ash Horner, Solome Aniseko (Seko) and Lemeki Moala were giving Marlborough a fantastic, solid scrum platform. From scrum penalties, Marlborough had two more tries sadly disallowed. Then, Lemeki Moala charged over from a tap penalty, five metres out from the line but sadly, the referee did not see the grounding.
After what seemed like a lifetime, Aaron James scored again in the corner, after a pass from Jimmy Adams, the referee awarded the try only for the linesman to tell him that Jimmy had knocked the ball on before the final pass. Things were starting to get a little desperate, it was really starting to look as though it was just not going to be Marlborough’s day. Then miraculously, after sixty minutes, Isikeli Bainivalumailepanoni (Bai), finished off a well worked backs move, scoring that elusive Marlborough try, again converted by Jake Williams.
Witney were not ready to throw in the towel just yet, five minutes later they scored from a poorly defended line out. The clock was ticking away, and was not being a friend to Marlborough, but the visitors were thrown a lifeline by Witney, who conceded a penalty, with about two minutes remaining and Jake William’s kindly did the honours. Witney 19 – Marlborough 20. The final whistle couldn’t come quick enough. This was a tough game, probably more than Marlborough were expecting, but they got the win and in the end that is all that matters, it was definitely not pretty or exhilarating to watch but at least Marlborough are back on the correct trajectory.
The front row is now becoming a real weapon for Marlborough, even when things are not going the team’s way. Ollie Spanswick, captaining the team for the first time, played, and led the boys very well. Yet again, young Arthur Fitzgibbon showed what the future potentially has in store for Marlborough, again his performance was amazing, but sadly Arthur is moving to Singapore with his family for a year, but as Team Manager, Dave Pittams confirmed “what an asset he will be for the Club on his return, and we can’t wait”.
Next week the 1st XV are back on the Common where they will be up against Oxford Harlequins who they last saw in the summer during a friendly. This will be another must win game for Marlborough, Oxford Harlequins have won every one of their matches so far, this is not a run of success that they will want to give up. Marlborough will need to regroup and come out stronger for this clash.