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 and attacked down the hill in the first-half. The opening proceedings were rather scrappy and both sides struggled to create any attacking advances. Oxford had a great chance on 11 minutes, however, when a great line break and chipped kick gave their winger the chance to open the scoring. Unfortunately for Oxford, he was unable to touchdown the bouncing ball and knocked it on. Marlborough then began to grow into the game, stringing some nice attacks together.
Nevertheless, it was Oxford that got the first points on the board. A penalty for not rolling away gave their number 11 the chance to kick from 30 metres out. He duly converted on 19 minutes. 0-3.
Marlborough soon responded and sustained some pressure in the Oxford half. Jack Lynd broke the line which led to a penalty 10 metres from the line. Marlborough opted to kick for the corner, and from the resulting lineout pushed with a huge maul to score a chaotic try. I was unable to see who was at the bottom of the pile-up to put the ball down on 24 minutes. However, it was a deserved try and Harry Jackson put his conversion through the posts. 7-3.
When Marlborough’s forwards ran 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 30 minutes, Tevita Kiurutuba was shown a red card for a high-tackle. Marlborough were down to 14 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 dropped the ball instead of putting it down for the second time in the game. A let off for Marlborough. However, on 38 minutes Oxford were awarded a penalty for offside just inside the Marlborough half and their number 11 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 quite a few stoppages for injuries, which played into Marlborough’s hands. Yet, on 52 minutes, their task was made more difficult when Manasa Cakau was given a yellow for a poor tackle which put Marlborough down to 13 men.
Shortly after, the 13-men extended their lead to 11. A great show of determination from Todd Johnson and Henry Webster won back the ball for Marlborough at a ruck, and they won a penalty for their efforts. Harry Jackson, who hadn’t missed a kick all game put a beauty through the posts from 40 metres to convert. 17-6.
On 65 minutes, a debatable decision to give Oxford a penalty by the referee caught Marlborough out. They utilised and broke up the pitch and scored a neat try down the left. The conversion was successful, and Oxford came back to within four points of Marlborough. 17-13.
With 10 minutes to go, the 14-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 able to kill the game off. Marlborough were unlucky to have a try disallowed following a 5-metre scrum. But shortly after, some Oxford handling in the ruck allowed Harry Jackson to kick another penalty successfully from 20 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 barged 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. Well played, sir. 27-13.
Marlborough bounced back well and put in a good team performance despite playing with only 14 players for much of the match. With a couple of players out through injury, they did very well. Harry Jackson and Todd Johnson were outstanding and crucial in getting Marlborough the win. Marlborough are away to rivals Royal Wootton Bassett next week; kick-off at 2.30pm. Come and support the boys on an away day!