Grove (64) vs. Thatcham (22)
Another great win for Grove!
Grove stormed to a great win over Southern Counties new boys Thatcham on Saturday and in so doing moved to joint second place in the division. The first half belonged almost entirely to Grove who dominated both territory and possession and established a very healthy lead in the process. However as has been the case in other matches this season Grove started the second half by taking their foot off the peddle, allowing their opponents back into the game for a while.
A very lively start by Grove saw skipper and prop James Eckert stopped just short of the line but the ball was recycled and wing Guy Nicholl went over in the corner for his first try of the day. Fly half Dave Maryon struck the difficult conversion superbly and Grove were 7 : 0 up after just 11 minutes. It was not long before centre Joe Bellinger increased Grove's lead with another wide out try following a terrific backs move started by wing Harry Carr and involving centre Jamie Burns and full back Huw Lewis. Once again Maryon superbly slotted the conversion and Grove were 14 : 0 up and looking good. Again the restart for Grove was good with flanker Matt Young and lock Mark Tugwell noticeably active. The next move saw Nicholl go over for his second and Grove's third try close to the sticks and again Maryon had no trouble in advancing Grove's lead to 21 : 0. Maryon lead the next attack with a long kick to space followed up beautifully by the Grove pack but it was Thatcham who gained the advantage with a smart attack up their right wing. With no Thatcham score resulting Grove came back and won two successive penalties in the Thatcham 22 metre area the second of which resulted in a yellow card for the Thatcham No. 8. Grove's attack was relentless with hooker Jimmy Wallbridge attacking the Thatcham line in solo fashion. A resultant wide-angle penalty attempt at the posts was missed by Maryon but from the follow up replacement Steve Dixey, returning from injury for his first league match this season, looked very animated. The next move, involving slick handling between Burns, Carr, scrum half Owen Gustafson, lock Lee Wright, Eckert, flanker Carl Alder, Dixey, Young and finally Nicholl, saw the winger ground his hat trick try and Grove had secured a bonus point. With Maryon down injured Carr smashed the conversion over from the touchline for a 28 : 0 Grove lead. Maryon then left the field to be replaced by Roger Sevier. With their sin-binned player returning plucky Thatcham then hit back at Grove and exploiting a gap in the defensive line flanker Matthew Billinghurst stormed over for a well taken try. The conversion was missed but the score was now 28 : 5. Encouraged Thatcham immediately attacked Grove again and developing an overlap another unconverted try was scored, this time by replacement Ollie Roberts, despite a deperate last ditch tackle from Lewis. The half time score thus stood at 28 : 10.
Thatcham started the second half as they had ended the first and began to dominate Grove despite another couple of good break-out solo runs by Nicholl and Carr. Sevier then relieved the pressure with a long kick to touch but Thatcham continued to enjoy possession and were looking far more purposeful. Another Thatcham overlap was created but Nicholl saved the day with a fine tackle, taking his man into touch. Maryon returned at fly half and Sevier moved to full back, replacing Lewis. Grove now started to clamber back into the game with good work from Gustafson, Eckert and Young taking Grove back to the Thatcham try line. Carr now attacked strongly and with Gustafson supporting strongly Bellinger was put over for his second try of the day and Grove were looking better again. Sevier claimed the extras and Grove were now 35 : 10 in front. Now Grove were awake again and Nicholl went off on a long side-stepping run which ended with a certain try scoring pass to the supporting Carr only for the ref to call the pass forward. Undaunted Sevier picked up the cudgels and having made a good run also threw a long and again certain try scoring pass to the ever menacing Nicholl only for the ref to once again call a forward pass. This time everyone from Grove was incensed as the pass had very clearly been good, as even agreed by the Thatcham touch judge. The ref then made another howler when Sevier volleyed an attempted Thatcham touch kick and followed up with the ball underarm to attack. Although the ball had never been grounded from the Thatcham kick and had never reached the touch line the ref called for a Thatcham line out and the whole of the Grove support began to wonder what was going on even though up to these moments the ref had had a good game! This advantage allowed the Thatcham hooker Martin Reeve to pounce from the restart and exploiting another gap in the defence Thatcham had scored a third try, now totally against the run of play. The conversion was missed but the score had moved to 35 : 15 and Thatcham were now in sight of a bonus point. Suitably fired up by this Grove came back with a vengeance and following a quick tap penalty taken by Gustafson Carr was put in for a great try in the corner. The conversion was successfully kicked by Sevier and Grove were now out of sight at 42 : 15. Grove now began to turn the screw and Burns lead the next attack with an interception to putt Carr in for his second of the day. Sevier's conversion attempt missed but it was now 47 : 15. Alder and Burns lead the next attack and it was the ubiquitous Nicholl who was on hand to score his fourth but unconverted try of the day to give Grove a 52 : 15 advantage. Still not satisfied Grove in the shape of Carl Alder attacked strongly but it was Thatcham who scored next with a converted try to complete their scoring for the day with a converted bonus point try for 52 : 22. Wanting more, Grove hit back immediately and this time it was Burns who touched down with a fine but unconverted try for 57 : 22. With 3 minutes to go prop Martyn Walsh and Tugwell launced the next assault supported by Wright and with Gustafson placing a super cross kick straight into Carr's hands the winger completed his hat trick and with Sevier converting Grove emerged as very worthy winners at 64 : 22.