Marlborough 27 – 13 Oxford Harlequins
After a narrow defeat to fellow promotion candidates Old Centralians last weekend, Marlborough hosted 9th placed Oxford Harlequins at The Common. The last time the two sides met, Marlborough came out on top, albeit in a very competitive game. The sun was shining, but the cold howling wind still meant hats and scarves for the fans.
Oxford Harlequins kicked off proceedings attacking down the hill in the first-half. The first ten minutes were rather scrappy and both sides struggled to create any attacking advances. Oxford had a great chance on eleven minutes, however, there was a great line break and a chipped kick gave their winger the chance to open up the scoring. Unfortunately for Oxford, he was unable to down the bouncing ball, instead knocked it on. Marlborough then began to grow into the game, stringing some nice phases.
Nevertheless, it was Oxford that got the first points on the board. Marlborough gave a penalty for not rolling away, giving their number eleven the chance to kick from thirty metres out and the ball went through the posts: 0-3.
Marlborough soon responded with sustained pressure in the Oxford half. Jack Lynd broke the line which led to a penalty ten metres from the line. Marlborough opted to kick for the corner, and from the resulting lineout they pushed with a huge drive to score a chaotic try by Tevita Kiurutubaon twenty-four minutes. Harry Jackson got the conversion through the posts: 7-3.
When Marlborough’s forwards were running with the ball, they looked dangerous. Todd Johnson and Lemeki Moala were making some good attacking inroads for the boys in black and gold. Plenty of strong tackles were going in from both sides, but on thirty minutes, the try scorer was shown a red card for a high-tackle. Marlborough were down to fourteen men and had to see out the remainder of the half under strong Oxford pressure.
Oxford broke the Marlborough line with some neat passing once more and put their winger in to score down the right, who then proceeded to drop the ball instead of putting it down for the second time in the game. A let off for Marlborough. However, on thirty-eight minutes Oxford were awarded a penalty for an offside just inside Marlborough’s half, their number eleven kicked a magnificent penalty to bring Oxford to within a point: 7-6.
With the last play of the first-half, Harry Jackson scored a fantastic solo try to put Marlborough in a commanding position once more. Having picked up the ball in his own half, he stormed forward down the right wing and barged his way past the Oxford tackler and scored. Having just scored, he then duly converted his own try to put Marlborough 14-6 up at the break.
The early stages of the second-half were broken up by a number of stoppages for injuries, which played into Marlborough’s hands. Yet, on fifty-two minutes, their task was made all the more difficult when Manasa Cakau was shown a yellow card, Marlborough were down to thirteen men.
A great show of determination from Todd Johnson and Henry Webster won back the ball for Marlborough at the ruck and won Marlborough a penalty for their efforts. Harry Jackson, who hadn’t missed a kick all game put a beauty through the posts from forty metres to convert: 17-6.
On sixty five minutes, a debatable decision to give Oxford a penalty by the referee caught Marlborough out. Oxford tore and up the pitch, scoring a neat try down the left. The conversion was successful, and Oxford came back to within four points of Marlborough: 17-13.
With ten minutes to go, the fourteen men of Marlborough were holding on in a nervy final spell. The first and second row put in a great shift to thwart Oxford breaking their line. Eventually, Oxford tired and Marlborough were unlucky to have a try disallowed following a five-metre scrum. But shortly after, Oxford was caught handling in the ruck, allowing Harry Jackson to kick another penalty successfully from twenty metres out to push Marlborough further ahead: 20-13.
From the following kick-off, Harry Jackson who was a standout performer, broke the line and then spread a fantastic pass wide to Avenai Cakaunitavuki who pushed forward and popped the ball to Pio Tuwai who sealed the win for Marlborough by scoring the try. Harry Jackson stepped up to convert and to maintain his 100% kicking success rate for the day, final score: 27-13.
After a weekend off, the Marlborough boys will be away to local rivals Royal Wootton Bassett (Saturday 23 March) for what will be another very competitive game. Old scores to settle and the winner will be that bit closer to the promotion play-offs. Lots to play for on both sides, so if you want to see some good rugby then come along and make some noise for the MRFC boys, kick off will be at 2:30 pm.