Grove (35) vs. Milton Keynes (20)
By John Sevier
Grove keep their promotion hopes alive with a good win against the team who were above them in the league.
With the top five clubs, including Grove and MK, now pulling away from the rest this was a game that both sides crucially needed to win and it was Grove who emerged victorious after a tough game in which the main deciding factor was Milton Keynes awful lack of discipline. For Grove to also gain a bonus point for scoring four tries was a real and somewhat unexpected plus.
MK’s indiscipline was evident right from the start when no-nonsense referee Philip Ware issued six straight penalties against them in as many minutes without Grove conceding a single one. Grove took a scoring advantage from one of these penalties when fly half Dave Maryon slotted from in front of the posts, for a 3 : 0 lead. MK also lost their No. 1 prop to a yellow card from the last of these penalties for being persistently offside. Grove were clearly in the ascendency in the early stage of this game and in particular the forwards were dynamic in continually driving their counterparts backwards. With the MK pack pushed right back to their try line they then conceded a Penalty Try which Maryon had no trouble converting for a 10 : 0 lead with just 10 minutes having been played. Finally Grove conceded their first penalty and MK fly half Phil Powell smashed over a beautifully struck long range kick to make the score 10 : 3. Grove’s line out was working well with lock Steve Maryon rising like a salmon to take the ball followed by huge forward drives from the Grove pack. Unfortunately the Grove backs were not functioning at their best and apart from a number of apparent touch kicks not finding their mark, slow passing was meaning players collecting ‘man and ball’ and attacks were thus breaking down. Nevertheless Grove’s rolling mauls continued to be successful with good work being displayed by back row man Joe Bellinger, Steve Maryon and hooker Dave Needham. Another penalty was awarded to Grove but the kick went wide of the posts. At the same time Grove centre Jamie Burns had to leave the field with a twisted knee to be replaced by substitute Harry Carr who moved to the wing with Gareth Hudson going from wing to full back and Nick Sevier from full back to centre. Grove continued their attacks with prop Steve Dixey, centre Dave Johnson and Needham outstanding and succumbing to the pressure MK conceded another penalty which was slotted by Dave Maryon to increase Grove’s lead to 13 : 3. At this point MK raised their game and with a big attack and a quickly taken penalty 5 metres from the Grove line, were rewarded with a try in the corner. The extremely difficult conversion was perfectly struck by Powell to bring the scores close at 13 : 10. MK were now in the mood for attack and long raking kicks by Powell kept Grove under pressure. Joe Bellinger was then felled but the result was a penalty to MK and a yellow card for Dixey for retaliation. Surprisingly Powell then missed the chance to level the scores when the relatively straightforward penalty kick went wide of the upright. Poor discipline then crept back into MK’s game and their No. 3 prop was yellow carded for stamping. Just before half time Tim Lane permanently substituted for Steve Dixey with flanker Carl Alder serving out the remainder of Dixey's sin binning. The half ended with the score still at 13 : 10 to Grove.
In the second half the MK indiscipline worsened and it was not long before their full back, Wayne Kelly, was red-carded for a dangerous tackle involving illegal use of the elbow, followed by verbal abuse to the referee. Nick Sevier came close to scoring but was bundled into touch before he could touch down. Dave Johnson then made a superb break to score between the posts for Grove and Maryon’s conversion moved Grove to a lead of 20 : 10. MK struck back with a try in the corner when Grove failed to push the attacker into touch and the score was again close at 20 : 15. Dave Maryon beautifully converted another penalty and Grove moved to 23 : 15 meaning MK now needed to score twice with time running out. Undaunted and with only 14 men MK now desperately threw everything at Grove and were rewarded with a somewhat controversial try after the attacker went through the corner flag in the act of touching down. Controversial because there were claims that his foot had gone into touch beforehand. This brought MK back into things with the score now at 23 : 20 but they then suffered another blow when their No. 7 flanker Steve Christie was red carded for stamping after the whistle had been blown. This effectively finished MK off and it was scrum half Owen Gustafson who darted over for Grove’s third try following a long run down the wing by Harry Carr. The conversion sealed Grove’s victory at 30 : 20 but not to be outdone Carr shot off again for a last minute unconverted try in the corner to give Grove the bonus point win. Towards the end of the match Grove 1st team debutante Jack Horrocks substituted for Steve Maryon in the second row.
PS. Sorry the 2nd half report is a bit limited but for some reason my dictaphone didn't record any of my 2nd half commentary so I hope I've got the salient facts right!