Determined Grove 1XV down Newbury Stags
Triumph of determination, skill and fitness
In a triumph of determination, skill and fitness Grove snatched victory from the jaws of defeat overcoming Newbury Stags 22 - 24 at Newbury in the first Southern Counties (North) league encounter between the two teams this season. It was the Stags larger forwards and slick set of backs that started the stronger and Grove who were making a lot of unforced errors in the early exchanges. Grove full back Paul Shephard launched two early attacks from his own half with the scant possession Grove enjoyed in this period, but the home defence held firm and indeed spent long periods in the Grove half. The referee gave most advantage to the attacking side throughout the game and it came as no surprise that after only 5 minutes one of a number of penalties already awarded against the visitors was given on the 22 metre line and in front of the posts. Amazingly the Newbury kicker missed the easy three points on offer but they kept the pressure up from the ensuing 22 drop out. Lock Lee Wright left the field with a blood injury to be replaced by Rob Weaving and Grove continued trying to attack Newbury but to no avail.
Grove then lost prop Richard Keen with a blood injury, replaced by Gary Eltham but this was short-lived and Keen soon returned to the field as did Wright. Clever attacks from Newbury and a further series of penalties against Grove gave Newbury a second chance to get points on the board, which this time they did through fly half Dave Jones to take the lead at 3 : 0. This was soon followed by a try from centre Phil Simmons between the posts, converted by Jones, to take Newbury to 10:0.
Just before half time however, and from the first serious foray into the Newbury half, a series of forward thrusts by Grove enabled scrum half Will Mackenzie to touch down following a very alert break by flanker Jamie Fredericks. Fly half Roger Sevier's conversion brought Grove back into the game at 10:7 down. Newbury struck back immediately however and thanks to a missed tackle by Grove, full back Danny Williams scored in the corner to leave Newbury leading at half time by 15:7.
As the second half progressed the penalty count against Grove continued to rise as the seemingly impenetrable Newbury defence held firm despite a number of good attacks by Grove. It was however the Stags who scored next with a try from Byrne and converted by Jones from a wheeled scrum on the Grove line. The scrum had gone round significantly more than the 90 degrees allowed and should have been reformed and to make matters worse the ref awarded a penalty to Newbury from the kick off following the Grove players protestations. With the score now at 22:7 it looked like all was lost for Grove but then following great work by forwards and taken on by the backs, left wing Zach Grant sailed over for another Grove try which was not converted. The score was now 22:12 and there was just a glimmer of hope for Grove. Then in an explosion of pace and agility centre Nick Sevier destroyed the Newbury defence with a solo side-stepping run down the left wing and leaving the Newbury full back for dead ran in to score between the posts. Brother Roger Sevier's conversion was then a formality and Grove were really back in the game at 22:19 but with little time remaining. It was becoming clear at this stage that Newbury's big forwards were wilting in the heat and Grove's superior fitness was beginning to tell. This transferred into advantage being given by the referee to Grove as the team going forward. From a scrum on the Newbury 5 metre line, Jamie Fredericks was then adjudged to have knocked on as he dived over for what looked to everyone like a good try, but the ref gave a 5 metre scrum to Newbury instead. With only a clearance kick from the Newbury fly half needed he amazingly dropped the ball and with tremendous alertness, scrum half Mackenzie was there to touch down putting Grove 2 points clear for the first time in the match.
From the restart, Newbury attacked with all the energy they could muster, and with the last play of the game the ref awarded a penalty to Newbury 40 metres out and in front of the Grove posts. Heartbreakingly for Newbury but joyously for Grove, this was missed and Grove had gained a momentous victory. A lot has to be said for Newbury, who played exceptionally well for the most part, but the Grove side proved they have the legs for the campaign and lots of character to come back so strongly in the last quarter.
Keen, North, T Eltham (G Eltham), Wright (Weaving), Maryon, Fredericks, G Nichol, B Nichol, McKenzie, R Sevier, Grant, Burns, N Sevier, Harrington, Shephard (Law)
Reps: G Eltham, Law, Weaving.
Louisson, Weston, Stuart, Bull, Taylor, Smith, Sanders, Reeves, Mather,
Jones, Denner, Riley, Simmons, Mansbridge, Williams
Reps: Thomas,Byrne, Halley