Henley 2nds (38) vs. Grove Squad (21)
Under strength Grove 1st team squad shock Henley 2nds
Henley 2nds (38) vs. Grove RFC (21)
Grove’s first pre-season trial match was played against Henley 2nds at Dry Lees on Wednesday evening under lights and for the most part in persistent heavy drizzle. It was thought pre-match that the home side might just blow Grove away, particularly as they had just beaten Chester 2nds by more than 100 points. In the event the match was much closer than expected with the visitors giving a very creditable performance which, for most of the game, must have had Henley worried.
Grove stunned their opposition when after just two minutes and despite the sheer physical presence of some of the Henley players, scrum half Owen Gustafson broke out on a solo run and chipped ahead for wing Harry Carr to gather and sprint to the line, scoring near the corner. Fly half Roger Sevier’s difficult conversion sailed between the posts and Grove were 0 : 7 in front. Henley stormed back but good defensive work by flanker Simon Peel in particular, kept them at bay. Despite now having most of the possession the Henley players were struggling with the greasy ball and trying some ambitious moves, continually knocked on. As a result Grove were being awarded scrums but as a unit their somewhat under-strength forwards were no match for the power of the Henley pack and were continuously being pushed off their own ball. Despite this and living off scraps Grove did manage to regain possession and with a break out found themselves in the Henley 22 metre area where they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. Quick as a flash the penalty was tapped by Gustafson and fired out to Carr, who once again was able to dive over in the corner scoring his second try of the night. Sevier’s even more difficult conversion was once again hammered over and to the disbelief of the watching crowd Grove were 0 : 14 up with 15 minutes having been played. Henley immediately hit back and playing to their main strength had their forwards bulldoze their way to the Grove line where they duly touched down to keep themselves in the game. The relatively straightforward conversion was missed by their fly half and the score had moved to 5 : 14. Henley now began to look dominant everywhere and Grove’s cause was not helped when prop Martyn Walsh had to be stretchered off with a bad knee injury. Jimmy Wallbridge substituted for Walsh. Henley were now hunting in pairs with the ball carrier being driven on by the second man and it was only some crunching tackles by flanker s Jack Horrocks and Peel and wings Guy Nicholl and Carr, lock Paul Miles and full back Nick Sevier that deprived them of another try. Finally Gustafson was able to steal and feed centre Tom Clipsham who made good headway, battering his way upfield. Henley came back however and following a couple of penalties drove their way to the Grove line again. Despite heroic defensive efforts by the visitors Henley were able to touch down for their second try. Again the relatively easy conversion was missed and Grove remained in the lead 10 : 14 with 33 minutes gone. Henley continued with the same tactics but Grove were now defending well and with Clipsham stealing a wayward pass the ball was shipped to hooker Steve Dixey who fed wing Guy Nicholl and it was he who made a fabulous dash to the try line brushing off one defender and beating the last Henley man to touch down for Grove’s third try. Sevier’s conversion took the score to 10 : 21 in favour of the visitors. Henley still had time in the half to hit back and with the Grove pack being completely demolished at the next scrum the ball was fired out to the left wing who raced in for a converted try in the corner. Despite two or three more determined Henley attacks the half time score stood at 17 : 21 to Grove.
With the rain now stopped it seemed the flood gates might open for Henley and following a couple of quickly taken penalties and more steam-roller work by the much stronger pack they were indeed able to touch down for another converted try and for the first time take the lead at 24 : 21, with 5 minutes of the half gone. Grove now started to make substitutions with Dave Maryon and rugby novice Luke Faircloth coming on for Roger Sevier and Harry Carr respectively. Henley now started to open up with their backs attacking strongly but no further scoring took place. Grove then lost replacement prop Wallbridge with an elbow injury and as a result passive scrummaging was ordered by the referee. Grove made further substitutions with Clipsham, Nick Sevier and Paul Miles all leaving the field, Huw Lewis joining the fray at full back and Jack Ponting at lock. Captain and prop James Eckert now showed well in the loose but Grove didn’t look like scoring again. Suddenly the Henley full back made a lightening diagonal run and looked like scoring a magnificent solo try only to be dragged into touch by Guy Nicholl before he could reach the try line. Grove came back through centre Joe Bellinger and Nicholl and new lock Richard Haires but to no avail and then with only minutes remaining Henley flattered to deceive by running in two quick trys, both of which were converted, giving a final scoreline of 38 : 21 which did not really reflect the balance of the match.
James Eckert (Capt)