Marlborough Rugby: Another grey day on the Common, but the youngsters are a ray of sunshine
Marlborough 25 - 34 Oxford Old Harlequins
After a two-week break (should only have been one, but the weather wasn’t playing nicely) the first XV were back on the Common and the opposition was from over the border – Oxford Harlequins. Sadly, it was a rather depleted Marlborough side that was put out due to the accumulation of injuries which have been sustained by the Marlborough squad. Three of the lads managed to injure themselves at training – not very helpful.
Marlborough started well but squandered early chances and with twenty-five minutes gone it was looking bleak for the home side; 0 – 12 down and loose head prop Rob Robanakadavu was off with a game ending ankle injury. Then to add to Marlborough’s issues, the Captain, Jack Lynd was shown a red card for a high challenge.
Oxford Harlequins were an extremely well coached and fit side with some very good players. Russ Westcott took over the captaincy of Marlborough and the home side started to claw their way back. On thirty minutes, Kapeteni Filipe finished off a very nice move which had started from a line out on the halfway line, there were five phases before he touched down in the corner. Jake Williams had taken over the days kicking duties from Will Grant due to Will's hamstring injury, kicked the conversion, 7-12.
Oxford Harlequins then capitalised on some poor Marlborough defending to score. Then just before half time Manasa Cakau picked up on the 22 from the ruck to score a very good individual try but the conversion was missed; half time scores, Marlborough 12 - Oxford Harlequins 17.
Two minutes into the second half Jake Williams kicked a penalty taking the score to 15-17. Marlborough were giving a good account of themselves playing with only 14 men, but chasing the game with a man short, Oxford Harlequins scored a further three tries. Marlborough continued to press and managed to claw back two more tries through winger Viliame Naivalu who was making his debut for Marlborough and scrum half Jake Williams, who was again having an exceptionally good game. When the final whistle blew the score was Marlborough 25 - Oxford Harlequins 34.
The score doesn’t reflect many of the positives which could be taken from the game such as Nado (Manasa Cakau) having an outstanding game with his sheer power and tenacity. If the opposition want to bring him down, they had better have number of defenders ready, he doesn’t tumble easily and will very happily carry them with him. Booboo (Kapeteni Filipe) was very strong in carrying the ball and protecting it. Marlborough fielded two very young wing forwards: James Marshall and Ben Brownhall, both had strong games. Through losing the Captain so early in the game the forwards were down to seven men, they both stepped up and neither were fazed by the responsibility. Tommy Elbrow came off the bench in the second half, at just 19 his skill and strength is improving every week.
Then finally there was Sam Waddle (a Colt last year) this was his second game for the firsts, and he has a very bright future with Marlborough. The lads may have lost, but there are many positives to take forward, head Coach Elise Vunipola has some exciting talent to work with who are very hungry to play, they are snapping at the heels of the more experienced players and so when they get the option to stand in they do so with positivity and enthusiasm. The team has a lot to look forward to in the long-term.