Milton Keynes (22) vs. Grove (20).
Grove just lose a close fought encounter at Milton Keynes
Grove conceded league top spot to Reading Abbey by narrowly losing at Milton Keynes on Saturday. The match at MK was characterized by some very strange refereeing but in the end MK just about deserved their victory because Grove made too many errors and MK prevented them from playing well with strong 'in your face ' aggressive defence.
Grove took the lead with a Roger Sevier penalty after 3 minutes but MK regained the advantage with an unconverted try after 10 minutes following missed tackles by the Grove backs. Grove then raised their game with promising attacks from the Grove forwards, notably through front row men Steve Dixey and James Eckert and stand-in scrum half Ben Nicholl. Eventually this good work paid off with the ball being passed through flanker Carl Alder's hands to wing Harry Carr who sprinted in for Grove's first try. The conversion was missed but Grove were back in front at 5 : 8 after some 16 minutes of playing. Five minutes later MK levelled the scores with a well struck penalty kick. Handling mistakes by Grove allowed MK to move well into Grove territory and launching a big attack they went over for their second try despite a despairing ankle tap from centre Joe Bellinger. Converted, the score moved to 15 : 8 in MK's favour. Grove tried to come back but more handling mistakes let them down and discipline started to slip, resulting in a yellow card for Ben Nicholl. Johnny Simmonds came on as a replacement for Carl Alder to fill the vacant scrum half position. Now with only 14 men Grove suffered another blow when full back Roger Sevier was also sin-binned for an alleged deliberate knock-on. Carr was then penalised for the same offence but thankfully no card was shown. Grove were next awarded a scrum 5 metres from their own try line but mysteriously the referee then reversed his decision and gave the put-in to MK. With MK's pack taking advantage of the Grove numbers deficit and subsequently pushing towards the line a penalty try was inappropriately awarded to them for alleged Grove handling in the ruck. The simple conversion took MK to a 22 : 8 half time lead and it looked to be all over for Grove.
Grove restarted still with only 13 men but were able to restrict MK from further scoring until Ben Nicholl returned. Player numbers were then equalized when MK's No. 4 lock was yellow carded for alleged stamping. Roger Sevier then returned to give Grove the numbers advantage. Grove were now beginning to look the stronger side and promising attacks developed particularly from lock Paul Miles and Bellinger. Alder returned for Simmonds and Jamie Burns came on at outside centre with Nick Sevier replacing Harry Carr on the wing. Grove continued to attack with good work from flanker Matt Young and Miles with Roger Sevier coming close to scoring in the corner. Strong MK defence however held Grove at bay. Jimmy Wallbridge now entered the fray replacing Steve Dixey at hooker and MK's previously carded player returned. Then another of the MK forwards was yellow carded for what appeared to be a dangerously high tackle. Young and wing Guy Nicholl tried to take advantage with strong attacks up the middle of the field and Grove were looking more fired up. Despite another MK deliberate knock on no further card was shown until their No. 4 lock was penalized, again for alleged stamping and received a second yellow, thus red, card and now MK were down to 13 men! Ben Nicholl made it to the try line but the ball was not grounded. With time fast running out Grove won a line out and the ball was spun quickly out to Guy Nicholl who touched down to bring Grove back into the game at 22 : 13 but sadly for Grove the touch line conversion went wide and two scores were still needed. With only two minutes to go the Grove backs again stormed back into MK territory and with the ball going out to the wing and back again Burns was able to dart over, with a neat side step, for a great try between the posts. After successfully scoring he was then assaulted on the ground by an obviously frustrated MK player. The referee was heard to tell the MK miscreant that if he did that again he would be red carded and he signalled a penalty to Grove. Grove's fly half Dave Maryon meanwhile quickly converted the try with a drop kick only to be ordered to re-take the kick, which he again did successfully but with the score now at 20 : 22 time was just about up. The game should then have restarted with a Grove penalty, which had been signalled, for the attack on Burns but the referee seemingly forgot or changed his mind and allowed MK to restart which they did with a long kick which went dead. As a result Grove came back for a scrum on half way but before the scrum could take place the referee again mysteriously reversed his decision and gave the put-in to MK. Nevertheless Grove stole the ball but time had run out and although Grove ended with another promising attack the game ended with a knock-on and Grove's only consolation was that they had earned a bonus point for being within 7 points of the winning score.