Oxford Harlequins 22 – 45 Marlborough
After a disappointing result at home to Old Centralians two weeks ago at the Common, Marlborough’s desire to get back to winning ways showed through at Oxford Harlequins on Saturday (17 November).
The Quins were unbeaten at home on their pristine 4G pitch at the Horspath Sports Ground all season. Results show they really make the most of their playing surface. Marlborough, having not played on such a pitch before, could expect to see high bouncing balls from kicks and some hard landings, with it being a much firmer surface than natural grass. The sun was out on a beautiful November day, with a light wind which blew into the faces of the Marlborough XV in the first half.
Harlequins kicked-off at the revised time of 2.45pm and were soon on the back foot from some slick play early on from Marlborough. They were fast to react and soon applied pressure on the visitors. After a nice spell of territory in the Marlborough twenty-two, Quins lost the ball at a scrum five metres from the line, and Jake Williams passed beautifully to Mitieli Vulikijapani who then ran the length of the pitch and evaded the Quins defence to score the first points of the game. Will Grant converted the try to make the score 7-0 to Marlborough after six minutes.
The second try of the game came in similar circumstances. On ten minutes, Marlborough turned the ball over sharply on the halfway line and Inosi Laqekoro stretched his legs and sailed past their retreating defenders. Once he got moving, there was no stopping him. Will Grant’s conversion attempt was brilliant from thirty metres out, but just narrowly missed. 12-0 Marlborough.
Marlborough were lucky not to give away their first points of the game three minutes later, when they were penalised for not rolling away twenty metres in front of goal. The Quins kicker missed a straight, simple kick to deny them their first score in the game. It was a let off for Marlborough. However, they put it behind them and shortly after in the fifteenth minute, they sucked in Marlborough’s defence with some sharp passing and Number 14 scored down the left wing. The kicker converted this time, from a much more difficult angle to make the score 12-7 to Marlborough.
The contest remained even, but on twenty-one minutes, Marlborough took a quick penalty twenty metres out and caught the Quins defence napping with some quick hands and passing of their own and Captain Jamie Pittams went over the line. A class try! Will Grant converted again to make the score 19-7.
The 4G pitch was causing some strange bounces and havoc for the Marlborough backs. It was from a strange bounce which saw the Quins come back into the game. A bouncing ball was not picked up and they scored a simple try on twenty six minutes. The conversion was missed, but Quins were back in the game. 19-12. They followed with another try shortly after on thirty one minutes with a sharp lineout tactic which caught out the visitors. The hooker went over to bring Quins within two points – 19-17. The conversion was missed again.
Right on half-time Marlborough showed their attacking class yet again and shifted the ball left to Mitieli Vulikijapani who wrong-footed the defender with a slick sidestep to score. Will Grant had his eye in and converted another good kick to put Marlborough 26-17 ahead at the break.
The second half began with the floodlights on and with the cold wind now behind Marlborough. The half started at a ferocious pace with both teams going in hard. Marlborough had some sustained territory which saw Quins stuck in their own half for five minutes but failed to take advantage. However, on fifty minutes, Marlborough won a scrum five metres out, and after a sensational pass from Jake Williams, Avenai Cakaunitavuki scored for Marlborough, which was duly converted by Will Grant yet again – 33-17. Marlborough’s class was beginning to show through, and they began to dominate.
Five minutes later, Viliame Waqanidrola scored down Marlborough’s right after some good lines, but poor defending. Quins now looking second best and tired. Will Grant kicked successfully to make it 40-17. Some big hits started to go in as Marlborough started to see the game out. However, with nine minutes remaining, Quins scored a nice try of their own, which was not converted – 40-22 to Marlborough.
Then with five minutes to go, a lineout as a result of a good kick into the corner saw Joe Visei’s name on the score sheet. Will Grant narrowly missed the conversion from twenty five metres. 45-22 was the score which remained until the final whistle. Whilst Quins looked a good side when they passed the ball, Marlborough did not allow them a foothold in the game and took their own chances effectively. They showed their class and pulled away comfortably in the end. Will Grant kicked beautifully throughout the eighty minutes which earned Marlborough 10 points. A timely bounce-back for Marlborough on the back of two defeats before they play Royal Wootton Bassett at the Common next Saturday, 2.30pm kick-off.