MARLBOROUGH returned to action in 2023 with a 22-10 victory over Wiltshire rivals Salisbury on Saturday.

The Regional Two South Central table-toppers maintained their 100 per cent record from 13 matches and just about recorded a try bonus point for the 12th time.

In the Common outfit’s first game since playing Swindon on December 3, Marlborough started well and scored in the seventh minute following an attacking scrum. Will Reeve outpaced his opposite number down the wing before dotting down, only to see the conversion sail wide.

Marlborough continued their early dominance when, in the 12th minute, the visitors won a scrum against the head, and Filikitonga scored in the opposite corner. But again, Will Grant was unable to convert.

Tricky weather conditions and a lack of concentration caused a number of handling errors as the half wore on, but Marlborough did manage to score one more try before the half-time whistle went.

Another scrum was won against the head, and several phases later Lemeki Moala crashed over. Grant slotted through for his first conversion of the afternoon.

Marlborough started the second half looking as though they would continue to dominate, but when a visitors’ try beckoned, Salisbury intercepted a pass and ran the length of the field to score despite a heroic chase from Callum Hunt, who tackled the Salisbury player on the line.

The chase wasn’t in vain, though, as Hunt forced the touch down in the corner, thus saving the extra two points with the conversion missing.

After notching for the first time, the home crowd came to life and pushed Salisbury on towards another try.

A second Salisbury score occurred in very similar fashion to the first when an interception on the hosts’ 22 resulted in a sprint down the other end. A couple of offloads later, Salisbury crossed again, but the conversion missed for a second time.

With time running out, Marlborough saw off late Salisbury pressure before scoring their bonus-point try in the 78th minute through Gareth Smith to wrap up the result.

Elsewhere in the division, Swindon cruised to a 41-5 victory at home to Wiltshire rivals Devizes.

Royal Wootton Bassett put up a brave fight against Regional One South Central leaders Wimbledon, but Alan Low’s men fell 27-19 on their travels.

In Regional Two Severn, Trowbridge lost 20-19 away to Keynsham in a painful result for the Wiltshire outfit.