Grove narrowly lost their Oxfordshire Cup Quarter Final in a thrilling match with Oxford Brookes University yesterday but with a number of opportunities to kick medium range penalties having to be declined, Grove were denied an option that could have won them the game.
Brookes opened the scoring after 2 minutes with a fine but orthodoxly constructed try when the ball was spun to their right wing who touched down in the corner. Grove retaliated with a good try of their own when, against the run of play, right wing Harry Carr gathered a loose ball to sprint three quarters the length of the field to touch down between the posts. Fly half Dave Maryon’s conversion giving Grove an early lead at 7 : 5. A kickable penalty to Grove was then missed. Grove were now beginning to look fired up and with their line out working well hooker Dave Needham and prop Steve Dixey were beginning to look rampant in the loose. It was not long before a good move involving both forwards and backs enabled Dixey to power over for Grove’s second try and Grove were 12 : 5 in front. Jamie Burns was exhibiting great tackling skills but with another kickable penalty being awarded to Grove they elected to go for touch and then lost their own line out! Brookes stormed back and it was left to full back Nick Sevier to run the ball out of defence which he did well. Another medium range kickable penalty was awarded to Grove but again the chance of 3 points was declined in favour of a kick to touch. This time Joe Bellinger took a great line out and Grove progressed right up to the Brookes try line. Another kickable penalty was declined in favour of a quick tap but this time the ball was moved to Guy Nicholl who touched down to put Grove further ahead. Maryon’s conversion took the score to 19 : 5 after 30 minutes. Further pressure from Brookes was resisted with very strong work from the Grove forwards followed by a massive clearance kick from Maryon. The Brookes fly half was now showing his kicking skills and having brought his side back to the Grove half with a massive punt he then slotted a medium range penalty to move the score to 19 : 8. Brookes’ loose head prop was then sin-binned for a dangerous tackle but again the kickable penalty was declined by Grove and again they messed up the resultant line out and the half ended.
Both sides began the second half in a messy fashion with the ball often being fly hacked between the sides. Grove then suffered a blow when wing Guy Nicholl was sin-binned for an illegal tackle but the resultant long range penalty attempt was missed by Brookes. It was Brookes however who came back strongly and were able to score their second try after 10 minutes of the half following a massive kick upfield. The easy conversion took the score to 19 : 15 and now the game was really anyone’s. Grove back row men Matt Young and captain Ben Nicholl were now looking really good with repeated and dangerous thrusts into Brookes territory but following one such attack Grove were dealt a massive blow when Ben Nicholl had to leave the field with a broken leg! Carl Alder replaced the stricken Nicholl. Next it was Joe Bellinger who stormed into Brookes backed up by Dixey and Sevier but the move broke down when the ball was kicked into touch on the full. At this point limping centre Dave Johnson was replaced by Henry Parsons for Grove with Sevier moving to centre and Parsons to full back. Grove continued to look good and following a beautifully taken line out it was centre Jamie Burns who stormed upfield but unfortunately the move ended with a turnover to Brookes who moved right back into contention gaining a very kickable penalty which their fly half attempted only to see the ball rebound into play off the upright. It was lock Steve Maryon who cleared up but in the ensuing melee Harry Carr was injured and had to be replaced by Mike Davies. Dave Needham then made a good break but the side-stepping Dave Maryon was eventually caught after some adventurous play. Scrum half Owen Gustafson and the Grove pack were still working well but not really crossing the gain line despite more thrusts by Steve Dixey. Prop James Eckert was now replaced by Jimmy Wallbridge and Dixey was replaced by Martyn Walsh for Grove. With the game nearing its end a long fly hack by the Brookes wing was finished off by him touching down for a try, which, with the successful conversion, put Brookes back into the lead at 19 : 22. Good work by Bellinger then took Grove right up to their visitors try line but nothing materialised. With the game becoming ever more scrappy Grove began missing tackles but then had the opportunity to level the scores with a very kickable penalty but realising this would not be good enough elected to go for a scrum instead. Another Grove penalty was awarded and again it was Bellinger followed by lock Paul Miles who surged for the line just coming up short. With a final knock on the referee blew up to end what had been a very exciting match.