MARLBOROUGH lifted the county vase as replacement Patch Campbell’s late try finally ended Melksham’s stirring comeback at Devizes RFC on Saturday.
The Common-based side booked a December 22 meeting with neighbours Hungerford in the South West knockout competition – but only after surviving a ferocious second-half onslaught from their county rivals.
Marlborough, who had fought back from 17-7 down to defeat Westbury in their semi final, steamrollered into a 15-point half-time lead.
But they spent the vast majority of the second period grimly hanging on as Melksham roared back and threatened to turn the tables.
Ultimately, Melksham paid the price for a sluggish start in which their opponents’ offloading game threatened to overwhelm them.
Marlborough were quickly into their stride and almost went ahead from the opening kick-off, which Melksham fumbled and then committed an offside offence.
Nathan Morgan’s effort from 25 metres sailed wide, but it proved merely a temporary reprieve.
Flanker Taniela Delaitamana drove upfield and as the ball was spun wide, Alex Sawbridge ploughed over in the corner for the opening try.
Centre Morgan booted a penalty to push his side further in front and Melksham missed opprtunities to get a foothold in the game, centre Scott Simmons off target with two penalty shots after wing Matt Glover had led the charge into Marlborough territory.
Despite mounting pressure and their opponents’ number eight Chris Patterson being sent to the sin-bin, they were unable to close the gap.
Marlborough ensured they paid the price as they kicked to the corner before a set three-quarters move sent Hugh Sutcliffe over, although Melksham complained bitterly about crossing in midfield.
And they rubbed salt into the wounds five minutes before half time as Morgan picked off a Melksham attack on halfway and broke clear, shovelling a one-handed pass to Russ Westcott who touched down.
In the last action of the first half, fly-half Simon Foster booted a penalty to get Melksham on the board and in the second half, their pack took control.
What amounted to a 40-minute siege of the Marlborough line saw them batter away from a series of close-range scrums.
Marlborough’s defence held frim until Foster spotted a gap and went over near the posts, adding the conversion himself.
With 10 minutes to go, the alarm bells really started sounding for Marlborough as after yet another endless series of scrums, number eight Phil Williams pushed his way across the line to cut the gap to just three.
With Marlborough losing discipline, the momentum was all with their opponents.
But in a rare moment of respite, they worked their way upfield and kicked a penalty to the corner.
The lineout was scrappy, but Campbell was alert to the bouncing ball to pile over and assure his side of the trophy.
REACTION AND MORE PICTURES FROM THE FINAL IN THURSDAY'S GAZETTE & HERALD AND FRIDAY'S WILTSHIRE TIMES