Marlborough Rugby: A triumph by the narrowest of margins on a cold and grey Autumnal day
Marlborough 20 - 19 Old Centralians
On Saturday, Marlborough were home to second place Old Centralians, a team who last season proved an Achilles heel to Marlborough. The boys were determined that history was not going to repeat itself.
From the moment the referee blew the whistle to start the game, Marlborough were on the defensive, the visitors were attacking strongly, trying to make use of the downhill gradient but to their credit the home side dug deep. After twenty minutes, the visitors scored their first try which was not converted, (0-5).
Long-time Marlborough player, Russ Westcott received a yellow card for a high tackle and so was out of the action for ten minutes. Though Old Cents were the dominant force in the first half, they only managed to score one more try (thirty- fifth minute) against a depleted Marlborough team through ripping the ball in a tackle, which was converted this time, (0-12).
Just before half time, Marlborough managed to get a score with a pick and go try by Manasa Cakau, but Will Grant missed the conversion. The halftime score was Marlborough 5 – Old Centralians 12.
The half time talk concentrated on the boys not panicking, stick to the game plan and protect the ball more, their time would come.
The home side started the second half with confidence, but this didn’t stop the visitors scoring another try through an intercepted pass with their player hitting the gas and Marlborough couldn’t match him and was converted by their kicker, (5-19).
This gave Marlborough the push they needed, and they upped their game, but Old Cents defended hard and their defence was first class. In the fifty-fifth minute Mitchi Vulikijapani scored a lovely try but Grant again missed the conversion, (10-19).
Scrum half, Jake Williams, scored after seventy minutes – he was already having a fantastic game, and this was just the icing on the cake. The conversion was missed by Grant, (15-19).
Going into the final ten minutes, the tension was growing, could Marlborough create anything and take the win? Old Cents gave away two injury time penalties, Mitchi Vulikijapani made a fantastic individual run, passed the ball to his right where Booboo Filipe was eagerly waiting to receive it, then he hit the gas to put the ball down over the try line with a couple of Old Cents players trying to defend with all their might, but to no avail. The whistle blew, Marlborough had the score, the team and supporters were jubilant, the lack of a conversion was immaterial. The final score was Marlborough 20 – Old Centrailians 19, it couldn’t have been any closer.
This was one of Marlborough’s better performances of the season, the boys worked hard, kept their heads and the younger and less experienced players are improving with each game as they have some big boots to fill. From last season’s squad, we have lost three senior players to National 1 teams, Pio returned home to play in the new Rugby X series and some of our Army Rugby family are away on tour. But it is reassuring to know that we have both new and young talent coming through and there are exciting times ahead and much to look forward to.