Second division favourites Magdalen followed up victory over Christ Church last week with a 48-24 trouncing of Worcester, affirming their promise. A somewhat scrappy game frequently interrupted by penalties saw the Magdalen pack repeatedly dominate their opponents. With neither side impeccable in defence, this was the determining factor, and the scoreline pays suitable tribute to the overwhelming Magdalen drive. Coupled with some incisive play by their backs, Worcester’s response was never truly adequate, mixing the classy with the confused.
The tone was set from the first by a scrum, following Worcester’s kick-off, which Magdalen drove from their 22-yard line to the centre, from which position they harassed the Worcester line mercilessly. Outside-centre Paul Morris set his fullback up nicely after a deception and the beleaguered defence scrambled to recover; a second run shortly after from the same player, however, resulted in Magdalen taking a line-out close to the Worcester line. Inside-centre David Miller capitalised on this proximity and claimed a try, duly converted by his namesake Boycott.
Magdalen repeated the trick within minutes, driving another scrum to the Worcester 22-yard line; the consistently impressive number 8 Obi Agbim broke out from this and set Miller up with his second. Boycott this time could not convert a tricky kick, but with a 12-0 score and complete dominance this did not cause any concern to the small coterie of Magdalen supporters gathered at the touchline.
Indeed, Worcester’s first aggressive moves of the game came about only as Magdalen errors; a knock-on in the scrum and a spilled line-out allowed them to edge close to their opponent’s line. At this point Magdalen’s only serious failing became apparent: their inability to clear from their own line. Worcester persistently clogged them, and finally Beecroft finished off a swift move between his inside-centre and fly-half to score his team’s first points. A conversion was sorely needed but missed out on; nonetheless, with Magdalen seen to be vulnerable when pressured, Worcester sniffed a chance.
Almost immediately, though, this was snatched from them; Magdalen’s pack thundered to the opposite end and a pair of Morrises, centre Paul and hooker Charles, pushed through for the latter to score under the posts. The easy conversion only confirmed Worcester’s plight. Agbim then added personal flair to Magdalen’s powerhouse attack; rising to take a pass from his team’s line-out, he charged from the centre to add a fourth, and by the half-time whistle Worcester trailed 26-5.
They began the re-start determinedly; for the first time they held a scrum, and won a Magdalen line-out.
Unfortunately for them, however, they were swiftly pegged back to their own line; a series of scrums and scrabbles could not prevent the Magdalen flanker bursting through to enable Agbim to take his second. Worcester stuck to their guns, though, and a superb run by fly-half Tom Bryan down the right flank was rewarded by O’Connor’s try, which Bryan duly converted to render the score 33-12. Agbim quickly matched this, completing a hat-trick with a fleet-footed dash, and Magdalen were by now confident enough to test their inside-centre’s kicking abilities, replacing the scrum-half in attempting the conversion; sure enough, he missed, but as a statement of confidence, it was a soaring success.
Worcester captain Moubray made a powerful answer with a full-blooded charge to the Magdalen line, which scrum-half Campbell popped over, but by now both teams were tiring. The Worcester defence could not hold back a charge-down by the number 10 and subsequent try, but nor could Magdalen protect their line. After a prolonged Worcester presence and several scrums, the Magdalen pack at the last seemed not quite so authoritative as before, with one lock sin-binned for withholding the ball and they conceded a final Worcester try as a result.
The last play of the match was fittingly to Magdalen however; having stolen a Worcester ball Richard Ogden was able to cross over, and take his team to a deserved 50, a marker for other sides to be wary of. Neither team’s performance was polished or invulnerable, but Magdalen will reckon to have the force to ride roughshod even over the most sparkling opposition.