Aylesbury (14) vs. Grove (12)
By John Sevier
Grove lose out in the mud at Aylesbury
A somewhat depleted Grove team, missing at least four 1st team regulars, lost a close game at Aylesbury, but kept intact their remarkable record of a bonus point from every game played this season and remain top of the league.
Grove started in a lively fashion but declined the opportunity for 3 points from a long range penalty and went for a misplaced touch kick instead. The initial Grove pressure was kept on though through strong tackling by centre Joe Bellinger, an opportunistic charge down by flanker Simon Peel and bullocking runs from hooker Steve Dixey and prop Tim Lane. Wing Guy Nicholl was lucky to avoid a card following a late tackle and Aylesbury came back strongly. Then with a Grove clearance kick being charged down, a first try to the hosts looked inevitable but somehow, through a lucky bounce, Grove managed to touch down first for the 22 drop out. Nevertheless it was Aylesbury who did then strike successfully when, exploiting gaps in the Grove defence and via missed tackles, their superb full back was able to go over for a fine try, also converted to put them 7 : 0 up, after just five minutes of play. Full back Roger Sevier tried to counter attack from the restart, kicking ahead and following up only to be scythed down by an unpunished trip as he chased after the ball. Recovering, Grove now launched their strongest attack thus far with penetrating runs by Bellinger, Dixey, lock Paul Miles, Guy Nicholl and finally wing Harry Carr who looked to have scored in the corner. Unfortunately Carr was adjudged to have gone into touch before touching down so no try resulted. With that pressure over Aylesbury came back territorially and were generally now looking the sharper outfit. Following a mass punch up, Grove's scrum half Ben Nicholl was dismissed to the sin-bin for a retaliatory punch, having first been kicked in the groin. Within minutes another punch up ensued but this time no cards were issued. Grove then had the option to exploit a three man overlap but the wrong option was taken and it was Aylesbury who came back strongly crossing the Grove try line only for the try attempt to be judged 'held up'. Nevertheless the Aylesbury forwards kept up the pressure and with a second attempt successfully touched down for a converted try and a 14 : 0 lead. With half time looming Grove were finally able to get on the scoreboard through Sevier's first penalty kick at the posts and so the half time score stood at 14 : 3 to Aylesbury, who it has to said, deserved their lead at this stage.
In the second half Grove began to raise their game and it wasn't long before their pressure lead to a second kickable penalty which Sevier converted for 14 : 6. Bellinger, flanker Matt Young, Carr and Lane now lead renewed attacks resulting in a penalty which fly half Dave Maryon superbly kicked for touch, deep in Aylesbury territory. Ben Nicholl then smashed his way through the resulting line out and Grove were now beginning to look good and, with penalty advantage signalled, Maryon attempted a drop goal, albeit unsuccessfully. Nevertheless Sevier punished Aylesbury with the ensuing penalty kick and the score moved to 14 : 9. Stand-in centre and Grove new boy Dave Wells then had to leave the field with an injury, being replaced by previously retired centre Dave Johnson. Grove pressure was maintained but too many mistakes by them kept Aylesbury in the lead. Carr then launched a good attack with a chip and chase but this came to nothing when, like Sevier in the first half, he was blatantly taken out late after he had kicked ahead. This time a penalty was rightly awarded for the offence but no card was issued! Dave Wells returned to the fold and play moved on. Sevier then successfully converted his fourth penalty attempt and with the score now at 14 : 12 Grove were right back in the game although time was fast running out. Aylesbury, sensing the end was near, pushed back into Grove territory and following a very clear but nevertheless unpunished knock-on by them, Wells was given a yellow card for alleged handling in the ruck. Shortly after this a massive brawl developed which seemed to involve just about every player on the park and which was then made worse by some supporters disgracefully involving themselves as well. The result of all this was a single yellow card for Aylesbury. Grove then tried one final attack at the line but this was unsuccessful and time was up.
This had genuinely been a game of two halves with Aylesbury dominant in the first and Grove in the second. Grove cannot really count themselves unlucky though because tactically they got it wrong too often and made too many kicking and handling errors.
James Eckert (Capt), Steve Dixey, Tim Lane, Paul Miles, Simon Peel, Matt Young, Carl Alder, Ben Nicholl, Huw Lewis, Dave Maryon, Joe Bellinger, Dave Wells, Guy Nicholl, Harry Carr, Roger Sevier.
Martyn Walsh, Dave Johnson, Danny Ferguson (Unused)