Devizes (12) vs. Grove (15)
Grove come from behind to win a thriller at Devizes.
Devizes started this match with all guns blazing and carried on in the same vein for the whole of the first half, dominating both territory and possession for fully 40 minutes. Immediately from the kick off the Grove try line was threatened but an interception from wing Harry Carr got the visitors out of trouble. Grove however were not helped when within minutes of the start hooker Jimmy Wallbridge had to leave the field with a severe arm injury, Ben Wilkinson coming on as replacement. Again Devizes pressured the Grove line but great defence held them at bay. This time a loose ball was gathered by centre Nick Sevier and a monster kick out of defence by scrum half Huw Lewis took the ball into Devizes half of the field but a long range penalty kick by the hosts brought them back to within 5 metres of the Grove try line for a line out. The line out ball was stolen by lock Lee Wright for Grove and with the additional award of a penalty; Lewis made a solo dash upfield only for the move to be halted for a scrummage award to Devizes. Again Devizes came back to the Grove try line but several individual player thrusts at the line came to nothing and Grove escaped again with a penalty award which enabled full back Roger Sevier to kick to halfway for a Grove line out. Yet again the Devizes forwards ground their way back to the Grove try line and this time a fast orthodox passing move along the line saw their winger touch down in the corner for a very good try with 25 minutes of the match played. A superb touchline conversion put Devizes 7 : 0 ahead and Grove were still completely under the cosh with no chance of a score having looked likely. Grove did now rally however and for the first time moved into the Devizes half with No. 8 Rory Gratwohl making a determined dash for the line.
In itself this was unsuccessful but from the ensuing ruck Grove were awarded a penalty for illegal handling and Roger Sevier reduced the arrears to 4 points with a successful punt at goal. Devizes replied with a very fast attack, initiated by their very good full back and were rewarded with a penalty in front of the Grove posts. Rather than go for the points clearly on offer Devizes opted to go for the corner kick and line out but, although this was won, a following, Grove enforced, knock on destroyed their advantage. Devizes successfully turned Grove’s scrum through 90⁰ to regain the put in but Grove stole the ball and relieved the pressure with another long kick downfield from their full back. Yet again Devizes came back to the Grove line and with the penalty count mounting in their favour another home team score seemed imminent but Grove rallied and through some great passing, moved back to halfway, flanker Dave Wells looking particularly impressive. As the half moved towards its end Grove were for the first time beginning to look really dangerous and the final move saw some great handling, ending with wing Tom Andrews closing on the Devizes try line only to be bundled into touch just short.
At half time Grove brought on substitutes Ben and Guy Nicholl who moved to hooker and left wing respectively with Ben Nicholson (injured) and Huw Lewis coming off. Grove then moved Owen Gustafson back to scrum half with Roger Sevier going to fly half and Harry Carr moving to full back. Devizes tried to attack but were penalised for 'crossing'. Nevertheless they then won another penalty of their own and with a determined push to the line the forwards went over and a try was awarded. Thankfully for Grove the conversion was missed but the score had now moved to 12 : 3 in favour of the hosts after some 45 minutes of play. Huw Lewis now returned on the right wing for Grove in place of Andrews. Devizes tactics now seemed to be to pepper Carr with high kicks but the stand-in full back responded well and with Grove’s forwards mauling superbly things seemed to be changing in Grove’s favour. Gustafson and Guy Nicholl lead the next Grove attack ably supported by both Sevier brothers but unfortunately Nicholl was adjudged to have stepped on the touch line at the start of a great run. Devizes hit back strongly again but Grove came out of defence with great running from Ben Nicholl, prop Tim Lane and centre Joe Bellinger. Grove were now looking far more determined and this time it was lock Richard Haire who launched into Devizes. Despite further high kicks to Grove’s full back it was definitely Grove who were now in the ascendancy. But then Devizes were awarded a kickable penalty which could have stopped Grove in their tracks except the kick at goal was missed! Grove came back immediately with a terrific attack, specifically involving Gratwohl, Ben Nicholl and lock Paul Miles and, but for a final forward pass, almost resulted in a try at the other end of the field for Carr. Undaunted, Grove kept up the pressure until a penalty was awarded for blatant Devizes handling in the ruck, which being in the ‘red zone’ should have also resulted in a yellow card, but didn’t! Grove elected to scrummage and with a very fast ball being fired along the line it was Nick Sevier who shot over in the corner for Grove’s first try. The conversion was missed but Grove were deservedly back in the game at 12 : 8. Unsatisfied, Grove stormed back again through Wells, Gustafson, Gratwohl, Roger Sevier and Bellinger. Guy Nicholl now smashed his way into the Devizes defence and the ball was quickly recycled through the hands of Gustafson, Roger and Nick Sevier to captain and prop James Eckert who, lurking on the wing, was able to motor over the line for Grove’s second try and for the first time the lead. Roger Sevier superbly slotted the touchline conversion and Grove found themselves 12 : 15 in front with some 10 – 15 minutes left in the match. Devizes were not finished however and tried desperately to get back into the match with good running attacks but their initial ‘snap’ seemed to have gone and Grove were able to hold them at bay. Play was becoming ever scrappier now with players from both sides totally exhausted. Grove suddenly looked to be in for another try however when Nick Sevier somehow turned the ball over from a ruck and set Gustafson and Guy Nicholl off, fly hacking towards the Devizes line, but the ball went dead. Play resumed and Grove won a ‘last play’ scrum from which Gustafson hacked into touch for Grove to secure a great victory after a very hard fought match which did credit to both sides.