Witney RFC (17) vs. Grove RFC (11) -- Saturday 10 April 2010
A Close encounter between local derby rivals.
Barring an absolute disaster, Witney have secured promotion from Southern Counties (North) after a very hard-fought win over Grove at Hailey Rd.. In truth, this game could have gone either way, and, with Chipping Norton beating Milton Keynes, a Grove win here would have secured third-place for them, but that now has to await the outcome of next week's final league encounter with Milton Keynes.
The game started with Witney launching into Grove at 100mph, but Grove reciprocated and it was not long before full-back Nick Sevier tore the home defenders apart with a superb run, side-stepping several Witney players before being stopped. Next, the Witney forwards drove Grove's pack backwards, but then their backs made a mistake, and Grove launched back into the attack, progressing into the Witney half and gaining a penalty close to the touchline. Roger Sevier's attempt at the posts from this difficult kick failed, but this was clearly going to be a close and exciting game. Witney struck back and were unlucky not to score when their full back exploited a gap in the Grove defence, only to knock-on with the try line at his mercy. A penalty to Witney followed, which the full-back converted to give Witney a 3 : 0 lead with 16 minutes gone. Almost immediately, Grove won a penalty for a high and dangerous tackle on centre Ashley Lane, and, this time, Sevier made no mistakes, equalling the score with his kick. Witney stormed back, but the Grove defence was strong, until the home side's right wing sent his opposite number the wrong way and sprinted for the line, only for Nick Sevier to smash him into touch with a try-saving tackle. Minutes later, another penalty was awarded to Witney, and the full back had no trouble giving his side a 6 : 3 lead. Again, Grove hit back following terrific pressure from Grove flanker James Kerr at the drop out, and, catching the defence offside, the referee awarded another penalty to Grove, which Roger Sevier cheerfully converted to once again level the scores at 6 : 6 after 25 minutes of play. Another penalty attempt was then missed by Sevier, before yet another was awarded to the visitors, only for the match's only sour note to ensue. Just as the Grove fly half was about to kick the ball, he was loudly heckled by a very unsportsmanlike Witney supporter and, clearly distracted, the kicker sent the ball wide of the posts. Witney then again pushed into the Grove half, only for the Grove full-back to once again turn the tables with a superb mazy run out of defence. Ben Nicholl for Grove, playing in the centre, tried to continue the attack, but the ball was lost and, taking advantage, Witney's centre collected and charged through for the first, unconverted try of the match to take the score to 11 : 6. With Paul Miles working well in the line-outs for Grove, half time was reached with no further scoring.
Witney started the second half with a superb and very fast run by their left-wing, but his counterpart for Grove, Tom Harrington, matched him for pace and took him out with a great tackle. Witney kept the pressure on, moving up to the Grove try line, but, despite forceful mauling, could not break through, although they were awarded a penalty that was put over to increase Witney's lead to 14 : 6. Grove now upped the pace and Ben Nicholl was particularly noticeable in his attacks. Grove substituted the injured Harrington and hooker Jon North with Ed Church and Steve Dixey, respectively. Again it was Kerr who stood out with very strong tackling, but Witney were awarded another penalty and increased their lead to 17 : 6. Undaunted, Grove hit back and again Nick Sevier made a very impressive run, driving his tacklers metres back before releasing the ball for Steve Dixey to smash into the opponents. The ball was passed through the backs' hands to left wing Gareth Hudson who could not break through, but then another superb attack saw Church on the other wing scythe through the opposition at great speed and, with ball being passed across the entire width of the field, Ben Nicholl neatly passed to Hudson who finally was able to pass his man and run into the corner for the game's best try. The difficult conversion was missed but, at 17 : 11, Grove now only needed another converted try to win. Witney drove Grove back to their own try line, but again Grove managed to escape. Another penalty attempt by Witney was missed and Ben Law for Grove substituted for Ashley Lane and immediately made his presence felt with his bulldozer-like attacks on the Witney defence. With Steve Dixey working like a Trojan, No. 8 Jamie Fredericks broke for the line, but did not have sufficient support, otherwise Grove could have had the final try they needed. With Grove throwing everything at Witney, a kickable penalty was ignored in order to get to the corner for a line out. From this, Grove moved right to the try line, but Witney escaped with a penalty, and, despite yet further tremendous attacking runs from Law and Church and complete pressure from Grove time, ran out and a very relieved Witney side had emerged the winners.
Wallbridge, North, G Eltham, S Maryon, Miles, Kerr, G Nicholl, Fredericks, D Maryon, R Sevier, Harrington, B Nicholl, Lane, Hudson, N Sevier
Reps: Dixey, Church, Law
Grove: Try – Hudson; Penalties – R Sevier 2
Witney: Try - Strutt; Penalties – Mitchem 4