Grove 1sts (30) vs. Tadley (12)
Grove kept their promotion prospects very much alive when they gained a fine bonus point win against Tadley on Saturday.
Although depleted by the loss of key players Richard Keen (Prop), Ben Nicholl (No. 8) and Jamie Burns (Centre) it was the home side who stormed into the attack exerting great pressure on Tadley through a storm force oncoming wind. This pressure lasted for about 10 minutes but due to stout defence from Tadley, Grove were not able to cross the try line. Prop Steve Dixey, Lock Paul Miles and Centre Joe Bellinger stood out in these attacks but Tadley eventually relieved the pressure with a long wind assisted kick downfield. Tadley then wasted a two man overlap, try scoring opportunity, with a knock on and then missed a relatively simple penalty attempt at goal. Staying in the Grove half it was the very powerful Tadley pack that set up and scored the first try of the match when they drove their Grove counterparts fully 10 metres, to touchdown. The conversion was missed and despite the early pressure Grove were 0 : 5 down after 19 minutes. Undaunted Grove came back at Tadley and exhibited some fine interplay between their backs but with the wind advantage long Tadley kicks continually took them right back to the Grove try line. Again the big opposition pack powered over the Grove try line twice but on both occasions the ball was adjudged to be 'held up'. As a result of these skirmishes both Grove prop Steve Dixey and the Tadley hooker looked to be in terrible trouble with leg injuries but somehow both very bravely carried on. Then from a set move the Tadley full back zoomed through the Grove defence at very high speed at touched down between the posts for a great try which was also converted to give the visitors a 0 : 12 lead. Grove pushed back and were unlucky when first wing Harry Carr then full back Chris Clare were stopped just short of the line but then from nowhere up popped hooker Jon North to bring Grove back into the game with a try in the corner. The wind meant the Grove conversion had no chance but it was now 5 : 12 and Grove were looking confident. With fully fifteen minutes of stoppage time played half time was called.
At half time Steve Dixey was replaced by Jimmy Wallbridge and Grove immediately went into the attack with a superb charge from lock Stewart Sherwood who was having a fine match all round. This lead to a massive Grove drive which eventually lead to a Grove penalty which scrum half Roger Sevier happily put over to take the score to 8 : 12 after just five minutes of the second half. Grove then took the lead following a wide arcing run from left wing Carr taking the ball from one side of the field to the other before moving it back through the backs to centre Joe Bellinger who had no trouble finding a gap and touching down for a one point lead. This was increased by Roger Sevier's conversion to 15 : 12. Following a penalty award to Grove one of the Tadley forwards rightly received a yellow card for first illegally preventing the penalty from being taken and then for pushing one of the Grove players to the ground before flailing his fists at everyone around him. The resultant penalty kick from the half way line was just missed by Sevier. Fine work from prop Tim Lane took Grove back into the Tadley twenty two metre area and the Grove pack began showing superiority over their counterparts and it was a very short time before slick handling saw flanker Guy Nicholl go over in the corner to take Grove to a 20 : 12 lead. Tadley pushed back into the Grove half but were then astounded when from deep inside his own 22 metre area fly half and captain Nick Sevier broke out on an amazing solo run which after dummying a couple of Tadley players, took him the full length of the field and finally with only the full back to beat he both side-stepped and handed him off to score a tremendous bonus point try.
The difficult conversion was put over by brother Roger and Grove were 27 : 12 in front. The sin-binned Tadley forward now returned, his side having conceded two trys while he was off, and Grove substituted centre Ashley Lane with Tom Harrington and Stewart Sherwood with Ryan Gordon, making his first team debut. Grove were now all over Tadley, attacking at will but then Tim Lane received a yellow card and Tadley pushed back into Grove territory. Grove recovered however and were awarded a penalty virtually on half way and near the touch line. Astonishingly Roger Sevier elected to go the kick at goal and even more astonishingly put the ball right between the posts for the final scoreline of 30 : 12.
This had been a very good performance from a possibly understrength Grove side who looked like they had shed their 'ring-rust' from the previous week. Particularly outstanding were Guy Nicholl, Stewart Sherwood, Steve Dixey and Nick Sevier although it would be difficult to pick a man of the match as everyone in the side, including the replacements, played very well.