Marlborough 29 – 20 Witney
After a disappointing defeat to Chippenham last Saturday, Marlborough returned to winning ways in a classic at The Common. Witney, twelfth in the table, with only one win in their last four games provided the opposition.
Marlborough kicked off proceedings, attacking up the slope in the first-half. The early knockings of the game proved to be scrappy and neither side seemed to get a foothold in the game. On eleven minutes, the game was stopped due to both a Marlborough player and a Witney player both chasing after the ball, as the Marlborough player slid down to secure the ball, Witney’s player did a similar move but his knee slid under Pitta’s back, his knee dislocated and Pitta ended up with a broken rib. The decision was then made to move onto the other pitch where the game continued. We wish those involved a speedy recovery.
Shortly after the game had resumed, Witney took the lead. From a lineout close to the corner, they got the ball down quickly and showed their strength to push to the line. The conversion was unsuccessful: 0-5.
Marlborough grew into the game after going behind, and on twenty three minutes got back on level terms. After a strong scrum, the ball found its way to Jake Williams who scored neatly. The conversion went wide from Harry Jackson: 5-5.
Marlborough continued to press forward and had a handful of chances, mostly coming from Mitieli’s speed on the wing. However, they were unable to convert into points. Witney punished Marlborough and took advantage of some poor tackling to get their noses back in front on thirty two minutes. Again, the kick was wide: 5-10.
Witney finished the half strongly. On thirty nine minutes, they capitalised on another strong lineout take and push to extend their lead to ten points. This time the kick was good and Witney took a twelve point lead into the half-time break: 5-17.
Marlborough, albeit with a few new faces, seemed to be lacking cohesion and the attacking intensity they usually play with. A spark would be needed in the second half to get back into the game.
That spark came much sooner than expected. Directly from Witney’s kick-off, Anthony Maka picked up the ball in his own half and proved unstoppable in a formidable run to the white-chalk. Harry Jackson’s kick was put wide, but Marlborough had their tails up: 10-17.
Witney did well to stem the tide and held their seven point lead for a good period. In fact, Witney got their own reward for a good spell of pressure when they converted a penalty right under the posts to extend their lead back to ten: 10-20.
However, Mitieli Vulikijapani, who had been threatening all game, provided a brilliant run and pass to Ratu Vuirato get Marlborough back in the game two minutes later. The sublime surge and offload was a treat for the Marlborough faithful freezing on the side-line. Jake Williams took the kicking tee but was unable to convert from wide out: 15-20.
Four minutes later, Jake put a penalty kick into touch five metres from the line. In typical Marlborough style, they got the ball down and pushed to the line. Anthony Maka the man to put the ball down for his second try of the game. Jake Williams scored a corker of a conversion to put Marlborough’s noses in front.
With five minutes to play, Marlborough extended their lead after a smart switch of play to Harry Jackson. Jake Williams duly took another brilliant conversion to put Marlborough nine ahead: 29-20.
However, the nerves began to jangle when almost immediately after Harry’s try, Witney scored themselves. Their number ten who had been their standout performer spread a lovely pass wide and the wide man could not be stopped. The fly half then converted a beauty under huge pressure to bring Witney back within two: 29-27
With the last play of the game, Witney tried to snatch it with a drop-goal, but it sailed just wide to give Marlborough the narrowest of victories.
The fans were not only treated to a thrilling game but a lovely atmosphere in the clubhouse with the Six Nations on the big screen and acoustic music provided by Marlborough’s Tongan ensemble. Marlborough face Newbury Blues at 2.30pm next Saturday on The Common. Come and support the boys in their push for promotion.