MALVERN took another step towards the League Championship and the promotion they were denied last year in Saturday's match, sponsored by Flanagan's, the builders responsible for the magnificent new clubhouse at Spring Lane.


Possibly because of the importance of bagging the two points, the home side put in a rather nervous performance. Despite having around 80% of the play, the sizeable crowd were subjected to a series of knock-ons and fumbles throughout the game, but Malvern were still a class above the struggling visitors from Birmingham.

The forwards played a rucking and driving game to suck in the Selly Oak defence, but the backs were unable to capitalise on the pack's domination, attacks breaking down midfield.

The big guns stuck to their task, Jon Owen and Vince Hill dominating the line out and the scrum pushing Selly Oak backwards time after time, Handy striking with great accuracy at hooker. It took 27 minutes before the domination told, when Gareth Richards took advantage of a stretched defence after some effective drives by the forwards to score, Longley converting. The normally deadly Ashton, Selly Oak's full-back, fortunately had an off day with the boot, missing three penalties on the day. Malvern ensured a 12 point interval lead when Longley chipped ahead and followed through to put just a hint of downward pressure on the ball to score.

Ashton pulled back three points at the start of the second period, Selly Oak pressed for a while but Malvern's blanket defence ensured that the line was never in danger, and the forwards continued to make life uncomfortable for their opposite numbers.

Another Longley chip ahead saw the lightning Rob Young's touch down, but a knock-on was given. As Malvern continued to camp out in the visitor's 22 metre area, Cooper decided to showcase his speed by rushing the winger's clearance, but a slightly late arrival earned him a ten minute rest in the sin-bin.

Luckily, Selly Oak were not allowed to take advantage, and Rob Young finished the proceedings with a fine try with five minutes left.

David Robins, Malvern's Director of Rugby, thought his side had suffered "first night jitters."

He said: "With the championship coming within our grasp the backs were off-colour, with too many spills. However, the forwards put in a magnificent performance, with man of the match Jon Owen outstanding.

"They set up a good platform to work from, and it is a measure of how good a side we have become when we can still win when playing below par at the back."

Tomorrow (Saturday) Malvern's league game away at Newport had been postponed and Malvern are seeking Pool games for their first and second XVs.

Malvern Thirds and Fourths (Seagulls) have home games against Greyhounds and Redditch Vets respectively, kick-offs 3pm.