MARLBOROUGH’S dreams of a RFU Senior Vase final at Twickenham were comprehensively steamrollered in freezing conditions at The Common on Saturday.
The home side found Forest of Dean opponents Drybrook just too powerful as the impressive visitors claimed the South West Vase and progressed to the last four of the national competition.
Drybrook made full use of the slope and wind advantage in their favour in the first half, amassing a three-score lead that the home side never truthfully looked like hauling back.
While Marlborough stayed true to their expansive intentions, the bitterly cold conditions – with occasional snow flurries – were more conducive to their opponents’ ruthlessly effective tight game, which they delivered expertly in the second period to rubber-stamp their triumph.
The home side will also reflect on their own paralysing error count, which prevented them from building up any sort of head of steam.
With half-backs Ben Large and Carl Moore directing operations, Drybrook – roared on by a sizeable travelling support – pinned Marlborough back with raking kicks that the home side were unable to field or found the corners.
One such play set up the driving maul from which Moore touched down 10 minutes in, Tom Treherne converting well.
Marlborough were competitive in the loose, but relied on the clearance kicks of skipper and full-back Nathan Morgan to relieve the pressure and, more often than not, were heading back towards their own line.
One such escape bid ended in disaster as Drybrook turned the ball over and Moore’s clever kick caught out the defence, the scrum-half taking the return pass to cross for his second.
Treherne added a penalty before half time, but Marlborough’s hopes were still high with wind and slope advantage for the second period.
Instead, Drybrook played the conditions perfectly, working their way into the corners and when Marlborough botched a scrum near their own line, flanker Andy Chesters touched down.
The hosts with Chris Patterson in the forwards prominent, roared back, but their handling and support play too often broke up their progress.
And when Moore escaped tackles to send over wing Sam Peaper, Treherne converting, their hopes all but vanished.
Marlborough at least got on the board when a period of sustained pressure ended with the ball grounded again the post for a try, number eight Taniela Delaitamana claiming the final touch and Morgan converted.
But, with prop Lotu Ngungutau sin-binned for a high tackle, the Drybrook forwards had the final say, another powerful maul setting up a try for prop Tom Reed before Moore scampered through for his hat-trick score and Moore added the conversion for an emphatic win.
REACTION AND PICTURES FROM SATURDAY'S VASE CLASH IN THURSDAY'S GAZETTE & HERALD