Wallingford (5) vs. Grove (45)
Grove go back to the top of the league!!!
Grove returned to the top spot in the Southern Counties (North) division of the league on Saturday when they hammered Wallingford and in so doing completed a great day for the club's senior sides, all of whom won.
The first half from Grove, on what was an atrocious day weather-wise, was simply magnificent with forwards and backs playing controlled, harmonious and disciplined team rugby with the wind and rain at their backs, scoring five of their six trys before turning round at halftime.
The second half was inevitably different for both sides given the reversal of the weather conditions for each of them but in many ways was equally compelling as Grove had to soak up almost continuous Wallingford pressure whilst holding out to only concede one try and at the same time being able to score a sixth for themselves at the end of the match. Added to this was full back Roger Sevier's impeccable 100% kicking record with three of the six trys being converted from the touch lines. Wallingford, who were missing a considerable number of 1st team regulars, also played their part and never stopped trying to play adventurous rugby, despite the awful conditions.
From the outset Grove put on the pressure with front row men James Eckert, Tim Lane and Jimmy Wallbridge in particular making inroads into Wallingford territory, ably supported by their ever alert scrum half, Owen Gustafson. After three minutes Grove were rewarded with a penalty which Sevier slotted for a 0 : 3 lead. Wallingford tried to push back into Grove's half but raking long range kicks from fly half Dave Maryon kept them at bay. One such kick was cleverly placed for right wing Harry Carry to run onto which he grabbed, sliding into the corner for Grove's first try. This was converted to put Grove 0 : 10 up. No. 8 Ben Nicholl now began showing his skills with great breaks from the base of the scrum. Wallingford however were defending hard and well in the face of continuous onslaughts by Grove. Lock Paul Miles and flanker Carl Alder now came to the fore for Grove with terrific charges into the opposition followed up by superb handling from Gustafson and Maryon. This lead to the ball being slipped to left wing Guy Nicholl who was able to power his way over in the opposite corner for try number two, also converted. Wallingford 0, Grove 17. Again Wallingford tried to hit back but strong tackling, particularly from Grove's centre pairing of Nick Sevier and Joe Bellinger, denied them any real advantage. It was then Bellinger who lead the next big marauding attack, leading to a Gustafson chip kick for Roger Sevier to run onto. With a footrace to the line between Sevier and a Wallingford defender the home side were given the benefit of the doubt by the referee on the resulting touchdown although the Grove attacker was adamant he had scored. Relentlessly Grove continued their attacks and now flanker Simon Peel emerged as the 'go forward' man. Miles then popped to Roger Sevier who sidestepped the defence neatly but once again was denied just short of the line. Alder, supported by Nick Sevier and Gustafson kept the pressure on and finally the ball was neatly flipped from the ground into the hands of Guy Nicholl who touched down in the corner for his second and Grove's third try. Sevier's third touchline conversion taking the score to 0 : 24. The next great attack saw Carr almost over the Wallingford line again but it was the home side who regrouped and broke out to hit back at Grove making their way to the half way line. This success was short-lived however because Grove powered back with Lee Wright charging for the try line although it was his lock partner Miles who finally got the touchdown for Grove's bonus point try. The successful conversion putting Grove into an unassailable 0 : 31 lead with half time looming. Not satisfied, Maryon put Wallingford onto the back foot with another long kick downfield and although they regathered the ball was lost to the oncoming Bellinger who had no trouble touching down between the posts for Grove's fifth try also converted to give Grove a 0 : 38 half time lead.
In the second half Wallingford took full advantage of the weather conditions and pushed Grove back into their own half. The visitors didn't help themselves by giving away a series of silly penalties, mainly for dissent and the Wallingford pressure stayed on. Gustafson relieved this with a monster kick to touch but it was Wallingford who again came back strong. Now with almost unlimited Wallingford possession things were not looking good for the visitors and Grove indiscipline began to emerge with ever more penalties being awarded to the home side. Nevertheless the war of attrition continued but with Wallingford unable to break through. Individual acts of heroism came to Grove's aid such as Simon Peel stealing the ball from Wallingford only to be driven into touch. Finally, after some fifteen minutes of Wallingford bombardment, Gustafson stole and placed a great clearance to kick to touch on halfway. Jamie Burns now replaced Nick Sevier in the centre for Grove with Ollie Highton coming on for Carl Alder and Martyn Walsh replaced Tim Lane. Bellinger was looking very effective in the provision of attacking defence but following a good line out Wallingford finally broke through and deservedly touched down for a good pushover try and the score moved to 5 : 38. This enabled Grove to get back into Wallingford territory following the restart but Grove now seemed to be having great trouble in retaining possession of the ball. Despite this Grove would not allow their hosts any territorial gain and Eckert, Wallbridge and Miles made individual dashes at the line although without any scoring success. With the game now being played in virtual darkness the referee began whistling continuously for errors on both sides and then with Peel stealing the ball for Maryon the ball was popped to Bellinger who crashed over for the final try of the day which Sevier happily converted to complete his and the team's very successful afternoon.