Saturday 12th December - Grove 15 Witney 19
Grove go down to league leaders in a thriller at Cane Lane.
Grove failed in their attempt to overhaul league leaders Witney on Saturday but had the game lasted another 5 minutes they
could well have been successful.
With 4 changes from the previous week, including the whole front row, it was not ideal preparation but despite this setback
Grove started very strongly and attacked Witney with vigour. After 12 minutes of continuous Grove pressure, when Witney
were unable to get out of their 22 metre area, the home side were awarded a touch line penalty, fly half Roger Sevier just
pushing it wide. Grove continued to apply pressure without any points reward and it was fully 20 minutes into the game befor e
Witney ventured into the Grove half of the field. The Witney forwards mauled well and drove into the Grove 22. With a penalty
awarded, Witney chose to go for a lineout and from another maul play was only stopped when Grove flanker James Kerr was
yellow carded for illegally killing the ball within the 5 metre area. Witney then decided on a scrum with Grove a man down, and
attempted a pushover try. The scrum broke up and from the restarted set piece Grove transgressed by going offside and the
referee awarded a penalty try to the visitors which was converted in front of the posts by Ed Mitchem to give Witney a 0-7 lead.
Grove made a few handling mistakes and with frustration their discipline suffered and with some backchat from a penalty it brought
Witney another 10 metres closer and presented them with a very kickable penalty which was then surprisingly missed by Mitchem.
Grove pushed back but Witney developed the next good attack after first their forwards pushed Grove off the ball then their backs
ran at Grove with a three man overlap but this was ruined by a forward pass to the winger. Half time score 0-7 in Witney's favour.Witney started the 2nd half the brighter of the two sides, and with fly half Lamb starting to kick well, kept Grove pinned back in their half.
Grove hit back with a fine running attack from full back Nick Sevier who side-stepped several Witney players before being caught. The
Grove pressure lead to a kickable penalty but instead Grove elected to run and several promising phases of play promised much but fizzled
out. Witney then attacked through their forwards, and from another maul, the ball was spun wide to Lewis Collins who ran in with the overlap
at his mercy, with the conversion from Mitchem making the score 0-14. Then shortly after, and following good forwards pressure again
the Witney scrum half slipped over the line for a soft try which was not converted but which gave the visitors a seemingly unassailable 0-19
With Guy Nicholl replacing Kerr on the flank, Grove began to pressure Witney with a fine attack all the way to the Witney line but with Ben Law
being penalised for holding the ball on the floor, Witney got the penalty to alleviate the pressure. Witney pushed back into the Grove half and
again were awarded a kickable penalty but again this was missed. Dave Maryon substituted for Ashley Lane on the Grove wing and
Grove again took play all the way back to the Witney try line and were unlucky not to get advantage from a charged down kick from Ben Nicholl
on the Witney line when they almost certainly would have scored a try. Now under real pressure Witney's fly half Lamb was yellow carded from
another transgression. Grove were now playing with great determination and were starting to apply good pressure from their pack and eventually
it was Ben Nicholl who scored following a great take at the lineout by lock Lee Wright and driving maul. Roger Sevier uncharacteristically
missed the conversion to keep the score 5-19. The penalty awards now started to move in Grove's favour with the Witney forwards tiring,
but it was too late to kick at the posts and so each penalty was run. Witney were lucky not to have more players sin binned with attempts to
kill the ball at most rucks and with Grove now clearly dominating the game and playing with much more speed and gusto, they looked dangerous
with ball in hand.After another series of quick offloads it was Guy Nicholl who was able to dive over in the corner to take the scoreline to 10-19. Roger
Sevier's conversion attempt, unluckily for Grove, rebounded off the upright so Grove still had to score at least twice to win the game. In
desperation Grove were now frantically running everything even from their own try line and the handling was much improved as they moved
back into the Witney half. Witney now seemed to be in disarray and they were further hampered when their centre Lamb was yellow carded
leave them with only 13 men on the pitch. Taking advantage Ben Nicholl set off on a great run, knocking over 2 defenders before feeding Jamie
Burns and the Grove centre was able to dive over in the corner to bring the score to 15-19, again the difficult conversion was just missed.
Unfortunately for Grove that was the last action of the game and while on balance Witney just about deserved the win they can count themselves
lucky Grove didn't get their act together a few minutes sooner as the result would almost certainly have been different.Grove Team: T Eltham, Sherwood, P Mack, S Maryon, L Wright, J Fredericks, J Kerr, B Nicholl, Hayes, R Sevier, Z Grant, B Law, J Burns,
A Lane, N Sevier Reps: Wallbridge, G Nicholl, D MaryonScorers: Grove - Tries: B Nicholl, G Nicholl, J BurnsWitney - Tries: Penalty Try, Campbell, L Collins. Conversions: Mitchem (2)