Marlborough 24-26 Old Centralians
A weekend of brilliant rugby began with a fantastic game at The Common in a 50-point thriller, with kick-off half an hour before England’s first Autumn International. Marlborough, looking for a bounce-back after losing their 7-game winning streak at Newbury last Saturday faced Old Centralians, sat 4th in the table aiming to win again after thrashing Chippenham 47-3 last time out.
The weather was Baltic once again and the strong winds caused countless misplaced passes and knock-ons throughout the match. Old Centralians kicked off and were attacking down the hill towards the Town. They made a fast start and sealed the first points of the game within 2 minutes after going over the line after a lineout. The throw evaded everyone, but Old Centralians reacted first. The flanker with the try. Competing at the opposition’s lineout proved difficult against Newbury and once again this week. They converted the try and took an early 7-point lead.
Marlborough got their first touch of the ball in about the 6th minute and began to obtain a foothold in the game. Marlborough got their first try of the game in the 14th minute after some great lines following a brilliant scrum. Mitieli Vulikijapani surged through and offloaded to Avenai Cakaunitavuki to score. Tom West’s conversion was pushed narrowly wide by the wind. 5-7.
With the wind pushing passes all over the place, Marlborough began to pass the ball very low to keep it out of the wind and displayed some great handling. However, the game was very physical and Old Centralians were matching Marlborough in the front pack. Some alert tracking back from Garth Bari prevented an Old Centralians try on 20 minutes after a swift move resulting from a good grubber kick.
The ball was going into touch rather a lot thanks to the wind, which provided a platform for Marlborough to show their ascendency at their own lineout. On 26 minutes, a ruck following a lineout led to a huge push and Marlborough got their second try of the game. Once again, the conversion was missed but Marlborough got their noses in front at 10-7. Old Centralians then sustained a lot of pressure down the right, but valiant defending from Marlborough on the line denied them a try.
With only a couple of minutes to half time, Henry Webster was sinbinned for a high tackle, which cost Marlborough dearly. Right on half-time, a good lineout from Old Centralians and a slick dummy from their fly-half got them back in front. The try was converted too, so Old Centralians went into the break 14-10 ahead. It was reminiscent of the Newbury game in that Marlborough had controlled the game but went into the break behind thanks to late tries.
The players stayed on the pitch at half-time, but when Marlborough restarted they instantly retrieved the lead. The kick-off was spilled by their full-back and Joe Visei was on hand to collect and storm to the line. The try was converted by Jake Williams and the score: 17-14. If there was anything missing from the first-half it was a bit of pace, but Marlborough added that early on in the second-half.
Then, on 48 minutes, Old Centralians scored a wonderful try with some slick passing and offloading down the left wing. The try was not converted so they went 19-17 ahead. The game became very back and forth, but Old Centralians were flattered by the score line.
With 10 minutes to go, Marlborough penned Old Centralians in the right corner and had lots of successful scrums, but just could not convert into points and they cleared. Shortly after however, a sharp surge from Mitieli Vulikijapani and a quick offload to Viliame Waqanidrola, led to a score under the posts. Jake Williams converted simply, and Marlborough regained the lead. 24-19.
With 5 minutes to play, it seemed Marlborough had the points secured with the ball stuck in the Old Centralians 22. However, with 2 minutes to play, a very good try against the run of play put the teams on level terms. It was a poor pass which gave them possession, with which they utilised effectively. A brilliant conversion from 30 metres put them 2 points ahead, a lead they kept until the final whistle. It was very harsh on Marlborough, who worked so hard throughout the game, but fall to 3rd in the table and travel to Oxford Harlequins on the 17th.