GEORGE Withers struck twice as Malvern sealed a place in the semi finals of the North Midlands Shield with a 20-12 victory over Old Yardleians last Saturday.
His two tries came in a one-sided opening period, which also saw Ben Essenhigh cross the whitewash, as Malvern put themselves in a strong position at half-time.
A Richard Hobbs yellow card allowed Old Yards to get back into the contest, but the hosts managed to see out the victory with some resilient defending.
Director of rugby Dave Irish said he was pleased with the win as he revealed he was forced to make some late changes to his side due to injury and illness.
“I had two late call offs to contend with when Jamie Anderson’s knee ballooned on Thursday and then Dave Smith was taken ill just before the game,” he said.
“However, I was delighted with the performance the lads put in, especially in the first half when they used the conditions to advantage and ran Yardleians around to get 20 points up.
“The second half was much more difficult, especially when they used their superior weight to advantage, but our defence held up well and we came out of it with a deserved win.”
Despite losing Anderson and Smith prior to kick off, Malvern started brightly and soon got on the score-sheet. Withers burst through after Malvern stole Yards’ ball. Ben King added the extras.
With the strong wind at their backs, Malvern were in complete control of the game and quickly added to their tally. This time, Nathan Dunford offloaded to Essenhigh, who sprinted through to score.
The visitors were struggling to get out of their own half for long periods in the first 40 minutes and even when they did make ground they were penalised.
King made no mistake with a kick from 40 metres out to increase Malvern’s advantage.
Shortly before the break, Irish’s men then extended their lead further as Withers went over for his second of the afternoon.
Malvern’s forward laid the platform for the score and they continued to march their opposite numbers back at the start of the second period.
But as the hosts made use of their replacements, the much heavier Yards pack began to put pressure on the home scrum. This eventually led Hobbs to get sin-binned as Malvern’s penalty count rose before Yards secured a penalty try.
Malvern had to produce some excellent defensive work to stop their lead from being cut further as the away side camped out in their opponents 22.
Yards managed to get over the line again late on. but crucially Malvern’s defence held firm to clinch a place in the last four.