Reading Abbey (14) vs. Grove (12)
Grove blow it in league opener!
Grove opened their league season by stepping on a banana skin, losing narrowly to a team they should have beaten. Grove, although clearly the better side on the day, were in some ways their own worst enemies, making far too many mistakes although it has to be said they were not helped by a referee who, after one particular incident in the second half appeared to turn against the visiting side for the remainder of the game.
Abbey started the stronger with their fast young backs attacking continuously and after 5 minutes were rewarded with a kickable penalty which they missed. Grove's forwards were already looking the stronger but were given no joy by the referee for two scrums which they turned through 90 degrees. Grove then passed on the chance to gain 3 points from a penalty and instead kicked for the corner. From the resultant line out the Grove forwards drove powerfully to the Abbey try line but then somehow lost the ball. After 15 minutes Grove were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which fly half Dave Maryon duly slotted to put the visitors 0 : 3 up. The Grove pack then again turned their opposite numbers through 90 degrees in a scrum and this time were awarded the re-set scrum. It was Abbey who had the next simple chance to score when they were awarded a very kickable penalty in front of the posts. Their captain and centre kicked an absolute howler however which went nowhere near the posts and Grove retained their lead. Grove then extended the lead following a monster tackle by lock Jack Ponting which resulted in a penalty to Grove which Maryon again slotted. Sadly, as a result of the tackle, Ponting had to leave the field, being replaced by Ollie Heighton. Grove then had their first great chance to score a try following a decisive break by centre Nick Sevier but unfortunately his pass to Guy Nicholl was dropped by the winger who otherwise had a clear run to the line. Grove continued to attack strongly with flanker Lee Wright, hooker Dave Needham and Nicholl all going for the line in turn but the Abbey defence held firm until a penalty in front of the posts was awarded to Grove. Now it was Maryon's turn to fluff a simple kick and the ball sailed wide. Abbey then stormed back with a howitzer kick fielded beautifully by Grove full back Huw Lewis who in turn was taken to ground and held there illegally by one of the Abbey props who received a yellow card for his misdemeanour. As a result Grove moved back to the Abbey line but from their penalty line out managed to lose the ball. With half time called Grove were in the lead 0 : 6.
The second half started with Grove having another penalty in front of the posts but again the luckless Maryon missed, this time hitting the upright. Flanker Carl Alder and prop Martyn Walsh then both had strong drives upfield but it was Abbey who gained the next advantage when, following a missed tackle by Grove's backs, Lee Wright was yellow carded for illegally kicking the ball away. This happened just as the Abbey sin-binned player returned to the field of play. With just over 5 minutes of the second half gone Roger Sevier came on as a replacement at fly half for Maryon. Flanker Matt Young lead Grove's next attack but although considerable territorial advantage was gained this was thrown away when a Grove player was penalised for back chat. Now it was Abbey's turn to attack powerfully and Grove were in for some desperate defence, eventually relieved by Young and Lewis who cleared the ball only for the Abbey backs to hit back again. With Abbey passes being crazily juggled but not not going to ground and with tackles again being missed by Grove defenders, the Abbey captain was able to cross Grove's line and touch down between the posts for the first try of the game. The successful conversion gave Abbey the lead for the first time in the match with 60 minutes gone. Grove fought back immediately with a promising attack started by lock Paul Miles and carried on by Roger Sevier, centre Joe Bellinger, scrum half Johnny Simmonds, Nick Sevier and finally wing Harry Carr who was stopped just short of the Abbey line. The move ended with a penalty award to Grove and Roger Sevier had no trouble putting it between the posts for Grove to regain the lead at 7 : 9. Abbey came back with a strong attack but Nicholl stole the ball and kicked downfield. Following up on his somewhat wayward kick, Nicholl absolutely clattered the Abbey captain who had caught the ball with a very hard but seemingly fair tackle. Unfortunately the Abbey player's head whiplashed into Nicholl's shoulder rendering the defender virtually unconscious and play was stopped while he was taken off the field. The referee did not declare the tackle to be dangerous or illegal, which would have meant a yellow card for Nicholl, but described it as 'awkward' and then very mysteriously restarted the match with a penalty to Abbey. The resultant Abbey line out was beautifully stolen by Grove but for no apparent reason the referee awarded another penalty to Abbey. Thankfully for Grove the relatively easy kick for the posts was missed by the substitute kicker. The next Abbey attack ended when they dropped the ball and Grove quickly gathered but again with Grove breaking out and for no reason anyone could see, the referee awarded another penalty to Abbey. A third kicker was brought on for Abbey but he also missed the fairly straightforward kick at goal. Spurred on Abbey continued their attacks but Grove's defence held firm and eventually they were able to gain possession and clear to touch downfield. Now it was Grove's turn to attack and with Bellinger rampant and nearing the line with ball in hand the referee stopped play and again awarded a penalty to Abbey. Abbey missed their clearance to touch to allow Grove to launch another big attack but again the referee stopped play with a penalty award to Abbey. Then with Abbey on the attack they passed forward for which the referee rightly signalled advantage to Grove but with Abbey continuing their attack the advantage was cancelled by the referee and the attack bizarrely allowed to continue! Thankfully the attack came to nothing and Grove pushed back into Abbey territory through an upfield charge by Needham followed by a long pressure kick by Roger Sevier which resulted in a Grove line out 5 metres from the Abbey try line. Walsh then charged strongly for the try line but was illegally held on the ground for Grove to finally be awarded a penalty. Roger Sevier successfully kicked for the posts and Grove's lead moved to 7 : 12. Abbey hit back strongly but even though they knocked on twice and passed forward without punishment further penalties and free kicks were awarded to them as they advanced on the Grove line. Then with a crunching tackle from Nick Sevier that stopped the attack in its tracks the referee awarded a penalty to Abbey for a Grove player apparently being offside earlier. The pressure on the Grove line continued but with the home side not being able to breakthrough yet another penalty was awarded to them and not unsurprisingly some of the Grove players began losing their tempers. The next Abbey move finally saw their fly half neatly cross the line for a touchdown between the posts which was converted to put Abbey 14 : 12 in front. Then, perhaps to none of the Grove supporters surprise, even though there had to be more time to play for injuries, the referee immediately ended the game.