Grove 1st's lose away at Aylesbury
Aylesbury (31) vs. Grove (12)
Despite a strong first half, from which Grove emerged the leaders by 7 : 9, they eventually lost 31 : 12 to Aylesbury on Saturday and in so doing said goodbye to any realistic chance of a promotion play off this year. Swindon are already beyond Grove’s reach and Wootton Bassett and / or Aylesbury only need another single win to keep Grove out of it. Grove are assured of a top six position however in a season which in most respects has actually been more successful than last year when the ended in 3rd place.
This was a much closer match than the score suggests and at half time it looked like Grove were going on to win a very closely fought match. Aylesbury opened the scoring on five minutes with a very positive crash ball run from their big No. 8, who’s touchdown allowed for a fairly easy conversion, to put Aylesbury into a 7 : 0 lead. Grove fought back and No. 10 Roger Sevier was unlucky with a long range penalty attempt. It was the fly half who also shone next with a neat shimmying break that ended with Grove being awarded another penalty which the same player put over to reduce the deficit to 7 : 3. It was scrum half Jonny Simmonds and centre Joe Bellinger who lead the next big attack for Grove but no scoring resulted. Grove then lost wing Tom Harrington to an ankle injury replaced by Grove debutante Henry Parsons on the right wing. Prop Tim Lane stood out in the next attack which ended with a superb touch kick from Roger Sevier to gain perhaps fifty metres for the visitors. It was then centre Nick Sevier and Steve Dixey who attacked but a resultant long range penalty was again missed. Again Dixey pushed forward supported by flanker James Kerr who fed the backs but the Aylesbury defence, supported by a number of very dubious decisions by the referee, held out. Grove continued the pressure and lock Mark Tugwell impressed until finally a blatant offside by Aylesbury had to be punished and Roger Sevier had no trouble closing the gap to 7 : 6 with his penalty kick. With half time looming the Aylesbury No. 8 received a well-deserved yellow card having persistently offended throughout the half and from the resultant penalty Sevier gave Grove the half time lead of 7 : 9.
The first man to show for Grove in the second half was new winger Henry Parsons, who delivered a beautiful side-stepping run to gain several metres. Grove’s much smaller pack were now mastering their very heavy opponents with a series of drives that continually pushed the Aylesbury pack backwards. After some 20 minutes of the second half Aylesbury lost their no. 6, who should have been red-carded for a head butt, but who escaped with just a yellow card. Grove’s main problem then started to emerge when they lost a series of their own line-outs, thereby squandering what should have been Grove possession to Aylesbury. In all some five Grove lines out on the trot were lost. Despite their one man deficit, Aylesbury really began capitalising on Grove’s inability to win a line out and it was not long before a big drive to the Grove line resulted in the massive No. 3 prop touching down between the posts. The conversion took Aylesbury back into a 14 : 9 lead. With only some 10 minutes to go, Aylesbury were now showing more positive attacking than at any stage in the game and forced Grove back into their own half where they won a penalty which was converted to put them 17 : 9 up. Grove responded with a penalty of their own, converted by Roger Sevier to close the gap to 17 : 12. Aylesbury kicked long at the restart and a dreadful mistake by the Grove receiver ended with Aylesbury being awarded a five metre scrum. Taking full advantage the ball was slipped to the Aylesbury wing who evaded two tackle attempts to touch down for a very soft try. The conversion put Aylesbury out of sight at 24 : 12. Jon North now substituted for prop Martyn Walsh. Grove threw caution to the winds and in their desperate attempt to score a try left gaps which Aylesbury were able to run through. Then, with a clear high tackle by Aylesbury going unpunished (See photo below), the no. 13 for Aylesbury evaded a couple of despairing tackle attempts and ran through for the final try of the match, the conversion providing the final scoreline of 31 : 12.
Although Grove never really came close to scoring a try they were in many ways the better side for much of the match. They can really blame their awful performances at the lines out for this loss.