Royal Wootton Bassett 13-29 Marlborough
Having rejuvenated after a week’s break, Marlborough secured the victory and bonus point over league rivals Royal Wootton Bassett. Around 300 spectators produced a lively and vibrant atmosphere. A vice-president’s function in the clubhouse delayed kick-off by half-an-hour, only adding to the suspense and anticipation around the ground for the derby match.
Bassett kicked off proceedings but came under instant sustained pressure from Marlborough. After just three minutes, Marlborough were unlucky not to score when a quick passing move to the left was halted on the line. Bassett cleared and shortly after had a brilliant chance of their own. Their tricky fly-half chipped through a delightful kick, which unluckily just went out of play before the spirited winger was able to touch the ball down.
After receiving a penalty on the halfway line, Harry Jackson kicked brilliantly to the corner, setting up a lineout. A good jump and quick-maul set up the chance for Anthony Maka to squeeze his way down the touch line and score the game’s first try on 12 minutes. Jake Williams who returned to his kicking duties, missed his conversion. 0-5.
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Bassett responded with a spell of attacking pressure of their own. However, Harry Jackson was on hand to kick brilliantly clear. The kick was so good it won Marlborough a lineout 22 metres from the Bassett try-line. From the lineout, Marlborough capitalised. Pio Tuwai showed dazzling handling with a ‘no-look pass’ to set up a simple try for on-form Anthony Maka on 20 minutes. Jake Williams was able to convert from close-range. 0-12.
Pio Tuwai was involved in the action once again five minutes later. Bassett had an overload on the left wing and were destined to score if it was not for a knocked-on interception from Pio. The referee deemed it deliberate and Pio was sent to the bin. However, Marlborough still looked in command. The front row dominance was wearing Bassett down. They were struggling to contain the constant hard hits from Lemeki Moala and Wilden Robanakakadavu. On 30 minutes, Marlborough had the chance to extend their lead with a penalty, but it hit the post and went wide.
In the final five minutes of the first-half, Marlborough were put under stern pressure. Bassett had the ball camped in Marlborough’s 22 but were unable to capitalise. Their fans roared prematurely for a try which was not over the line, and the ball was cleared to rub salt into their wounds. They were lacklustre with their handling, with a plethora of chances being wasted through knock-ons to let Marlborough off the hook. 0-12 the half-time score.
Marlborough began the second-half well. On 49 minutes, Mitieli Vulikijapani showed his class when he picked up the ball on the half-way line and evaded all defence with pace and prowess to extend Marlborough’s lead. A brilliant try. Jake Wiliamsconverted successfully to put Marlborough 19 points clear. 0-19.
Bassett finally got a score on the board, however. They responded with sustained territory, which eventually saw them bundle the ball over the line for a scrappy try. The conversion was missed, to keep the gap at 14 points. 5-19.
Their skilful fly-half set up another try for Bassett five minutes later, to mount a potential comeback attempt. He caught Marlborough napping when he took a quick penalty. He broke the line with ease and chipped over the defence. His kick went over the dead-ball line, however from the following five-metre scrum, Bassett’s replacement flanker charged with too much power and scored. The conversion was missed once more. 10-19.
Bassett continued to pressurise the Marlborough defence, with a much stronger second-half display. They were rewarded when a penalty was given for not rolling away, and the fly-half converted with 10 minutes to go. 13-19.
Despite being under the cosh, Marlborough came up with the goods two minutes later. Jack Lynd exploited a gap in the Bassett line, and charged through down the right for a fantastic solo try. Jake Williams’ kick from wide right was missed, but Marlborough were back on top. 13-24.
Pio Tuwai played a major role in Marlborough’s final try of the game to cap off an excellent performance. He and Mitieli Vulikijapani linked up with more excellent skills to start an attack down the left. They broke the line but were eventually held up just short. From a scrum shortly after, Marlborough showed class to shift the ball left and Ben Fulton capitalised on the weariness of the Bassett defenders to secure a bonus point. Jake Williams’ kick hit the post and rebounded wide for the second time in the game, but it did not matter. 13-29 the final score.
Marlborough, who have three games remaining in the season are still playing excellently and have a real chance of overtaking Banbury and Old Cents in the league table. The boys face Salisbury at home next week. If the front row can be as dominant as they were today, they should fancy their chances.