Marlow (26) vs. Grove (23)
Grove unbelievably squander a 0 : 23 half time lead to lose 26 : 23 to Marlow.
Grove, clearly missing the talents of 1st team regulars Owen Gustafson, Ben Nicholl, Dave Wells, Nick Sevier, Steve Dixey, Jimmy Wallbridge and Lee Wright, somehow completely squandered a 23 point half time advantage to unbelievably lose at Marlow. It is difficult to understand precisely why this happened but the blame did not lie so much with the replacement players performances but perhaps more with some strange Grove decision making during the match. The match was played with a strong 'end to end' wind blowing throughout the game and while Grove chose not to use this feature to their advantage in the first half Marlow certainly did in the second half pinning Grove back on their own try line with several long kicks from defensive positions. Another ridiculous feature of this match, which had no ugly incidents or dangerous tackles, was the issuing of 6 yellow cards by the referee.
Grove started this match with all guns blazing and took a 3 point lead from full back Roger Sevier's penalty in the first minute of the game, following a great forwards drive from the kick off. From the restart Grove again looked strong with good running and passing from lock Paul Miles, props Tim Lane and James Eckert (Captain), fly half Dave Maryon and veteran hooker Jon North, to again advance into Marlow territory. The pressure was kept on with good charges from flanker Matt Young and Maryon, who put in a beautiful grubber kick to the corner for wing Harry Carr to run on to. Unfortunately Carr could not quite gather the ball before it went into touch but the idea had been right. Then, with the Grove pack driving relentlessly towards the Marlow try line, the ball securely at the feet of No. 8 Rory Gratwohl, a push over and back row touchdown looked to be a definitely on. Instead the ball was snatched away from Gratwohl for the backs to run with and this lead to an immediate knock on thus throwing away a great scoring chance. The next move saw Marlow concede a penalty right in front of their posts but rather than secure the virtually certain 3 points on offer from a Sevier kick, Grove inexplicably decided to go for a scrum which was won but with poor passing behind the pack saw the ball lost and possession turned over! Good work from North then saw the ball stolen from the next Marlow scrum and Grove were on the attack again but the move ended with a penalty to Marlow to allow them to temporarily escape the danger area. Sadly for the home side their positive attacking moves ended with a penalty and a yellow card just about on the half way line. Now Sevier was asked to attempt the very difficult, long range kick at the posts which he struck superbly and Grove's lead was extended to 0 : 6 with 22 minutes of the match gone. Exploiting the one man advantage Grove destroyed the Marlow scrum but nevertheless the Marlow No. 9 gathered and was able to make a dangerous thrust up the wing. However the ball was then lost to Gratwohl and moved to centre Tom Clipsham who set off on a tremendous solo run to the Marlow line to touch down between the posts. Sevier easily added the extras and Grove were 0 : 13 ahead and looking completely dominant. It was Clipsham who stood out again from the restart taking the high ball cleanly and running strongly at Marlow before passing to marauding wing Guy Nicholl who took play right back to the Marlow line before the ball was unfortunately knocked on. Grove again stole the ball from the resultant Marlow scrum with North again taking 'against the head'. Under enormous pressure Marlow then conceded another penalty in front of the posts which this time, sensibly, Sevier was called upon to slot. This he easily did with 30 minutes gone and Grove had a 0 : 16 lead which really should and could have been bigger. With Marlow back to full strength, Grove were pushed back into their own half but their defence was holding well. Now with Grove turning the next Marlow scrum through almost 180° a reset scrum in Grove's favour was expected but surprisingly did not materialise. Marlow took advantage and attacked strongly through their backs but no real ground was made and finally the pressure was relieved when Sevier's long touch kick from a penalty got Grove back into Marlow territory. Grove won the resultant line out and Young made another strong run up the middle of the park, supported by Lane and Lewis who between them fired the ball out to Nicholl who, complete with a hitch kick, powered his way to the corner for Grove's second try of the day. Sevier slotted the very difficult touch line conversion and Grove were 0 : 23 up. Grove were still rampant with Miles, North, Young, Lewis and flanker Simon Peel all charging into the opposition. The next scrum was awarded to Marlow but again this was taken 'against the head' by Grove. Marlow were awarded a free kick after the next Grove scrum when the visitors pack was adjudged to have pushed too soon. This offence was to be repeated several times in the second half despite Grove protestations that they were continually being pulled forward by the Marlow front row. With Marlow now in the Grove 22 metre area for perhaps the first time in the match Harry Carr received a yellow card for handling in the ruck but Marlow could not capitalise on this. Half time arrived with Grove feeling supremely confident of a big win but they had flattered to deceive.
Such had been the extent of Grove's domination in the first half the Grove faithful were expecting a cricket score by the finish of the game. What actually happened during the next 40 minutes they found hard to believe.
Two minutes into the half Carr's temporary dismissal was nullified when Marlow were issued with the 3rd yellow card of the day. Almost immediately however a Grove mistake, following a poor pass in the backs, lead to a Marlow player fly hacking through to Grove's try line and touching down between the posts for an easily converted but very soft try and the score had moved to 7 : 23. With the Grove half back combination not functioning very well a penalty was conceded and suddenly the score was 10 : 23. Grove now re-arranged their back line with Maryon moving to scrum half, Sevier to fly half and Lewis to full back. The next move saw a Marlow player receive a ball when apparently in an offside position although this was not penalised. Taking advantage he ran through the Grove defences and sprinted to the try line for another score which Grove felt should never have been allowed. Nevertheless it was allowed and to make matters worse the conversion was successful and suddenly Grove were in real danger of losing the match at 17 : 23. Carr returned to the field but almost immediately had to leave again with a neck injury which ended his game, Tom Andrews coming on as replacement. Marlow's heads were now definitely up and despite Grove's attempts to regain territory, long raking kicks, assisted by the strong wind, kept Marlow in Grove's half of the field. Grove's new recruit Craig Cox now joined the fray and almost immediately received a yellow card having been on the field for just some 5 seconds. The resultant penalty, which was in front of Grove's posts, meant the score moved to 20 : 23. Grove tried to regroup and it was centre Joe Bellinger who made headway supported by Tim Lane and play moved into the Marlow half of the field. Marlow now received the 5th yellow card of the day from the 'bin-happy' ref and Grove moved relentlessly towards the Marlow try line. With another penalty awarded it seemed Grove would extend their lead but for the first time Sevier's kick went astray on the strong wind. Pat Wiltshire now replaced Jon North for Grove. The Marlow drop out took them deep into Grove territory but Grove forced their way back into the Marlow half and were awarded a penalty while Marlow received their 4th and the 6th yellow card of the day! With the increasingly strong wind removing the opportunity to have a pop at the posts Grove elected to scrummage when a kick to the corner would have been the better option, particularly given Marlow now only had 13 men on the field. As had happened before at their scrummages the Grove pack were then pulled up for pushing too soon again and another good scoring opportunity had gone astray! Grove dissent then followed and the free kick was turned into a penalty with an extra 10 yards ground awarded to Marlow. Again Marlow's very long penalty kick took them right back to Grove's line. This was followed by another penalty award to Marlow in front of the Grove posts and the score moved to 23 : 23 with about 5 minutes remaining. Grove's frustration was now at boiling point and following more dissent another kickable penalty was awarded to Marlow and the game was effectively over at 26 : 23 despite Grove's desperate attempts to recover the situation. The Grove supporters left the field in stunned disbelief at what they had witnessed.