Towcestrians (23) vs. Grove (6)
By John Sevier
Grove lose a thriller to a very good Towcester side.
Last Saturday Grove travelled north to play Towcestrians RFC for the very first time. It was therefore very difficult to know exactly what to expect in terms of playing ability and on-field style from the hosts except we knew they were likely to be good. This proved to be the case as they gave a demonstration of very structured, skilful and disciplined rugby.
Tows took the lead after just one minute with a superbly struck penalty from full back James Falvey following a late tackle by Grove. Grove’s fly half Roger Sevier struck back immediately with a penalty of his own to level the scores at 3 : 3 with just four minutes gone. Both sides were clearly looking to spin the ball and attack at every opportunity and for Grove No. 8 Rory Gratwohl stood out in the loose. Unfortunately for Grove, prop Jimmy Wallbridge was lost early on to a head injury being replaced by Ben Wilkinson at hooker with Steve Dixey moving to prop. Tows were enjoying most of the early possession and continued to pressure Grove but great tackling from Grove’s Gratwohl and flanker Dave Wells in particular kept them at bay. Quick thinking by Roger Sevier then set wing Guy Nicholl off on a run that would have seen a certain try for the visitors but the ‘no nonsense’ referee saw an earlier infringement and the move was stopped. Tows continued to develop most of the attacks and after 20 minutes it was a quick blindside break which caught Grove by surprise and saw Falvey go over for a good try in the corner which he also converted to provide a 10 : 3 scoreline. The superb Tows full back continued to play havoc with the Grove defences but Grove, through scrum half Owen Gustafson and Wells in particular, took their side into the Tows half of the field for only the second time in the game. Gustafson continued to snipe at Tows and now stand-in centre Ben Nicholl had a good run which ended with a penalty to Grove which Roger Sevier slotted to make the score 10 : 6. Grove were now exerting more pressure through both backs and forwards but were not making sufficient territorial gains. Gratwohl continued to show well for Grove but to no avail as Tows finished the half with another slotted Falvey penalty to lead 13 : 6.
Grove started the second half brightly with a great attack initiated by flanker Richard Haire who ran deep into Tows territory before bringing his backs, Harry Carr, Nick Sevier and then Ben Nicholl into play. Gustafson and Roger Sevier kept the pressure up but a dropped pass saw the end of the move. Clever running by Tows outside centre brought them back into Grove territory until Dave Wells stopped them in their tracks. Tows 9 and 10 combination were now looking very good and causing Grove trouble until centre Joe Bellinger took possession and chipped ahead. Nevertheless it was Tows who broke back, attacking from their own try line but the move ended with a scrum to Grove. Grove then had a penalty and it was they who launched another attack, first through Ben Nicholl then flanker Lee Wright then Carr in from the wing. Lock Paul Miles strove to make ground and it was wing Guy Nicholl who made the final dash only to fall foul of the touchline. At this point Simon Peel replaced Wright. The game now appeared to have reached stalemate with Grove still only one converted try behind but still capable of levelling the scores. It was the visitors who kept up the attacks but it was becoming clear that poor ball retention was beginning to seriously affect their chances of winning this game. Grove then suffered two more blows when first Roger Sevier had to leave the field with a back injury being replaced by Huw Lewis with Gustafson moving to fly half and second when Falvey slotted anther penalty for Tows. With only perhaps 10 minutes remaining an air of desperation was creeping into Grove’s game and tackles started to be missed and more 50:50 ball was lost to the hosts. Tows now effectively switched their attack from backs to forwards who drove strongly before the ball was popped out to inside centre Martyn Harvey who, exploiting a defensive error by the Grove backs, broke through and dived over for the match winning try. Falvey finished off a great personal performance by converting and despite some even more desperate attempts to score Grove had lost to the deserved winners 23 : 6.