Wallingford (19) vs. Grove (30)
Grove emerge triumphant from a tough game against local opposition Wallingford.
Grove kept up their promotion campaign with another bonus point win, this time at the expense of Wallingford, but not before suffering some scary moments.
Grove started well with a strong attack, following a long touch kick from centre Dave Johnson. Wing Gareth Hudson almost made it to the line but it was No. 8 Joe Bellinger who, after just five minutes, touched down in the corner, following a chase for wing Harry Carr’s chip kicked ball. Fly half Roger Sevier’s conversion was missed but Grove were in the lead 0 : 5. Three minutes later Wallingford had a great chance to pull three points back but the simplest of penalty kicks in front of goal was badly missed. Grove stormed back with flanker Guy Nicholl fly-hacking his way to the host’s try line just being unable to touch down. Grove’s confidence then showed when, being awarded a kickable penalty, they elected to go for the corner lineout. With the line out subsequently won the resultant move ended when Wallingford were awarded a penalty, for offside. Undaunted Grove fought back with a break out from Bellinger, scrum half Owen Gustafson and captain James Eckert, following a mid-field scrum. Then, after a quickly taken lineout, which went wrong, followed by some delayed passing in the backs, the Grove ball was turned over and Wallingford stormed the whole length of the field to score between the posts. With the conversion successful the hosts were now 7 : 5 in the lead, albeit against the general run of play thus far. Despite some poor tackling by Grove it was they who began to fight back to force themselves into their hosts half of the field but yet again ball on the ground was turned over. With the ball finally regained Grove again forced their way into Wallingford territory and it was prop Steve Dixey who almost made it to the line before unselfishly feeding the ball to Nick Sevier who shot through the remaining Wallingford defences to score Grove’s second try near the corner. Brother Roger’s successful conversion gave Grove a 7 : 12 lead. Grove pressure now continued with great attacking runs from wing Harry Carr, Nicholl, Gustafson, Johnson, Nick Sevier and wing Gareth Hudson but the best attack came from Paul Miles. Following a neat pass from flanker Matt Young, the lock charged half the length of the field for what looked like being a fine individual score. At the last second Miles passed the ball to Nicholl who dropped it with the line at his mercy! Grove were now very much in the ascendancy however and bounced back immediately with a superb try from Gustafson following his delightfully jinky run to the line. With thirty minutes gone Roger Sevier’s conversion took the score to 7 : 19 and all was looking good for Grove but then they appeared to fall asleep. Wallingford raised their game and really started to pressure Grove and finally, by creating an overlap in the backs, they were able to score a relatively straightforward try which went unconverted to take the half time score to 12 : 19.
Grove started the second half the way they had finished the first, i.e. not confidently, and Wallingford were able to take advantage of some weak tackling attempts and knock-ons to crash over for their third try. Strangely, and tactically poorly, nobody charged the conversion and a further two points were easily added by Wallingford. So to Grove’s concern Wallingford had now achieved parity at 19 : 19. Wallingford now had their heads up and abandoning a kicking game began to run everything at Grove. Eventually Grove woke up and, led by fierce resistance particularly from Gustafson and Tim Lane, began to pull themselves back into this game. Unfortunately a move which took them all the way to the Wallingford line ended with a penalty to the hosts. Fighting back, hooker Dave Needham lead an attack into Wallingford territory, which ended with a penalty award to Grove. No longer wishing to kick for the corner Grove took the more pragmatic decision to go for the posts and Roger Sevier brought a lead of 19 : 22 back to Grove with his successful kick. Now it was Wallingford’s turn to make mistakes and again Needham took advantage, driving into his opponents before feeding the ball through the hands of Gustafson, both Seviers, Nicholl, Bellinger, Dixey and Carr only for this exciting move to end with another penalty to Wallingford. Uneventful, it was next Grove’s turn to be awarded a penalty but Sevier’s kick went wide of the posts and the score remained tantalisingly close. Grove were now in the mood to close this game out however and ferocious attacks from Bellinger, Dixey, Lane and Young took the visitors right back into their host’s territory and then with another successfully kicked penalty by Roger Sevier, Grove edged to a 19 : 25 lead. Wallingford would not lie down however and stormed back at Grove despite having lost one of their props to a yellow card. The game was now to-ing and fro-ing with both sides attacking and counter-attacking each other but it was a superb touch kick by Gustafson, followed by some mazy running by the scrum half, which lead to Grove’s bonus point try being scored by Nicholl. Sevier’s conversion was missed but the score had now moved to its final position of 19 : 30. Tom Harrington replaced Gareth Hudson on the wing. Plucky Wallingford hit back strongly and twice had try attempts refused, both adjudged to have been ‘held up’. With the hosts now using all of their big forwards as battering rams Grove’s defence’s held strong but in the midst of this Grove centre Dave Maryon was yellow carded while penalties were abounding for Wallingford. A big attack from the Wallingford backs was foiled when Carr intercepted to get Grove out of trouble followed by a strong runs upfield firstly by Young then by Lane. Finally time was up and the ball was kicked into touch with Grove having achieved their goals, albeit against a very lively Wallingford side that deserves to be higher in the division than they are.