Grove (34) vs. Witney (22)
Grove beat local derby opponents Witney with a bonus point win, despite a somewhat error strewn performance.
Grove began this game like an express train being initially all over Witney and they were rewarded after 4 minutes with a converted penalty from the boot of full back Roger Sevier. This was followed 2 minutes later with a great try when wing Harry Carr was put over in the corner following a beautiful reverse pass by scrum half Owen Gustafson. He fed No. 8 Ben Nicholl who made a terrific solo break into Witney territory before passing to the Grove winger. The conversion was dutifully slotted by Sevier and Grove were 10 : 0 up and looking great. Then a series of mistakes brought Witney back into Grove territory and with a beautifully struck penalty from out wide the score moved to 10 : 3, with less than 10 minutes of the game gone. Grove came straight back and a very strong run by wing Guy Nicholl ended with him touching down in the corner for 15 : 3. Unfortunately the difficult conversion was missed by Sevier, with the game now 14 minutes old. Grove again attacked strongly, firstly through centre Joe Bellinger then hooker Steve Dixey then prop Tim Lane and Rory Gratwohl, playing on the flank for the first time this season. Grove were awarded a penalty but this time the normally reliable boot of Sevier let him down and no further points resulted. With 25 minutes gone, Witney came to life with a sustained attack and their very dangerous No. 12 centre carved his way through a series of missed tackles to score a super solo try. With the conversion missed the score moved to 15 : 8. At this point Harry Carr had to leave the field with a leg injury and was replaced by Tom Andrews. Huw Lewis also came on temporarily at scrum half in order for Gustafson to receive treatment. Grove continued to make incursions into Witney territory but were thwarted by a number of fumbles. Witney's hooker hobbled off and was replaced but Witney kept up the pressure and were rewarded with an eminently kickable penalty but surprisingly decided to go for a kick to the corner! Although the subsequent line out was won by Witney a following knock on eliminated their advantage. Nevertheless it was Witney who were now continually pressuring the Grove try line until Grove were awarded a penalty and escaped the danger zone. With a further free kick award and 10 more metres for Witney dissent, wing Guy Nicholl gathered and made a great solo dash for the Witney line, which he made successfully and Grove pulled away again at 20 : 8. Again the conversion was uncharacteristically missed and the referee blew for half time.
Witney opened the second half pressuring the Grove line but Grove soon moved back to half way only to lose the ball with a knock on. At the next Grove lineout the ball was stolen by Witney and another highly charged attack by the Witney No. 12 was only halted by a great tackle from Guy Nicholl, wide out on the wing. From the next penalty award Witney again declined the opportunity to kick for points and Grove regrouped but were then unlucky to have a strong attack halted by an erroneous touch call from the Witney touch judge when nobody from Grove had actually touched or crossed the touch line! Despite the subsequent successful line out and strong attack by Witney, Grove were finally able to steal the ball and clear their lines with a monster penalty kick to touch by Roger Sevier. Grove's penalty line out was then again lost and clearly work was needed on this facet of Grove's game. Although at this point Grove were still looking the superior side a period of error strewn play followed ending with another kickable penalty award to Witney but again the opportunity for 3 points was strangely declined and nothing materialised for the visitors. Instead it was Grove who powered back upfield and with some slick handling the ball was moved to Guy Nicholl who crashed over in the corner for his second and Grove's bonus point try. The touchline conversion was again missed but the score had now moved to 25 : 8 with some 65 minutes gone and it looked like Grove were out of sight. Grove however then seemed to go to sleep and Witney attacked very strongly again through their no. 12. The move ended with Grove's lock and ex-Witney player Richard Haire receiving a yellow card. Again the probability of points from the kickable penalty was declined as Witney opted for the corner line out. This time the option was correct as the line out was won by Witney and the expected drive to the line resulted in the ball being slipped out to the No. 12 centre who had an easy run in to score between the posts. The conversion was successful and the score moved to 25 : 15. The referee then awarded Witney a penalty kick from the restart which was again kicked for a line out but Grove stole and Roger Sevier put in a howitzer kick to take Grove deep into Witney territory. Grove now sustained the pressure with great attacking from Gustafson and centre Joe Bellinger in particular but the move ended with a dive at the Witney try line being adjudged as 'held up'. Following this Grove attack Witney received a yellow card and Roger Sevier slotted the penalty to make the score 28 : 15. Witney came back strongly and their scrum half scored again between the Grove posts which, with the following successful conversion, took the score to 28 : 22 and the match was still very much alive. Grove came back strongly again with big attacks from prop Tim Lane and centres Joe Bellinger and Nick Sevier and with another penalty award Roger Sevier extended the Grove lead to 31 : 22. Witney tried in vain to come back again but Grove now had their heads up and fought their way back towards the Witney line, winning a long range penalty which was kicked to the corner. This time Grove won their line out cleanly but fumbled in the backs and Witney pushed back again but then lost another player to a yellow card. With no time left in the game Roger Sevier had no option but to go for the long range penalty kick at goal which was superbly and successfully struck and Grove had won the local derby by 34 : 22.
As a result of this win Grove move to sixth place in the league.
Grove team :-
James Eckert (Capt), Steve Dixey, Tim Lane, Paul Miles, Richard Haire, Rory Gratwohl, Ben Nicholl, Dave Wells, Owen Gustafson, Dave Maryon, Joe Bellinger, Nick Sevier, Guy Nicholl, Harry Carr, Roger Sevier
Huw Lewis, Tom Andrews, Pat Wiltshire.