Grove (18) vs. Reading (20)
Grove rue the loss of 1st team regulars, particularly their place kicker, as they lose a match which they otherwise would have won.
With a number of notable and regular 1st team players all missing from their line up Grove narrowly lost this first ever league fixture with Reading which, with a successful kicker on board, they would certainly have won. With only one of five eminently kickable place kicks being successful for Grove this match was lost by the hosts rather than won by the visitors.
Apart from a spectacular try from wing Harry Carr the first half was a fairly even and generally lack lustre affair. Reading had the best of the early exchanges but somehow missed a penalty in front of the posts. They regrouped however and scored a try in the corner when their right winger just managed to ground the ball before being smashed through the corner flag. With the difficult conversion being missed Reading were in front 0 : 5 after 12 minutes. Flanker Matt Young, No. 8 Rory Gratwohl and centre Joe Bellinger lead the Grove recharge but it was Ben Nicholl returning from injury and playing unusually at scrum half who had the best run which lead to the first of Grove's kickable penalties. With Roger Sevier absent through injury and nobody else practised at kicking, full back Nick Sevier stood up but missed to the left of the posts. Play resumed and with a Grove player being tackled while off his feet and attempting to catch a high ball, the Reading inside centre received a yellow card. Grove skipper James Eckert lead the next attack and it was from this that Carr's try resulted. Receiving the ball out wide the Grove winger danced his way past four or five defenders with beautiful side-steps to finally dive over for a great try near the posts. Taking over the kicking duties to convert his own try Carr then missed the relatively simple kick but Grove were back on terms at 5 : 5. Reading then came back to regain the lead at 5 : 12 with a good converted try following a strong forwards drive, but not before Grove lock Richard Haire received a yellow card for allegedly handling in the ruck. No further scoring took place however and so at half time the score remained at 5 : 12.
For the second half Grove reshaped their team with Dave Johnson coming on at fly half to replace Dave Maryon who moved to his better position of scrum half while Ben Nicholl moved to centre to replace brother Guy who moved back to his usual position of left wing, first half winger Josh Allen leaving the field. These changes made all the difference as Grove immediately went on the attack with relish. Carr launched into another searing run but, chipping ahead, was then flattened without the ball as he tried to follow up his kick. Although a penalty was awarded the Reading miscreant amazingly escaped a yellow card. Now it was prop Pat Wiltshire who came to the fore with several great bullocking runs at the Reading defence but somehow despite back up from hooker Steve Dixey, Eckert and lock Paul Miles the Reading defence held firm until eventually conceding another very kickable penalty. This time it was Maryon who had a stab at the posts but again the kick sailed wide and Grove, who by now should have been in the lead, were instead still trailing by 7 points. Grove again came strongly, firstly from another good run by Carr, and then from a breakthrough interception by Guy Nicholl, who unfortunately lost the ball with the try line at his mercy. Haire returned to the field and almost immediately afterwards Carr intercepted a wayward Reading pass to shoot over for his and Grove's second try of the day. This time it was Johnson who attempted the relatively straightforward conversion but again the ball missed it's mark and so Grove remained behind at 10 : 12. Grove were by now looking by far the stronger of the sides but were rueing their missed place kicks. Continuing with great attacks Bellinger, Wiltshire and Ben Nicholl pressured the Reading defences but then with all the Grove backs lined up in anticipation of an open run at Reading an attempted chip kick over the defence rebounded off and was gathered by a Reading defender who ran the full length of the field to score an unanticipated and unopposed soft try for Reading. With the conversion missed the score moved to 10 : 17 and it was really beginning to look as though it was not Grove's day despite by now looking far and away the better side. Undaunted Grove came back with strong attacks from Guy Nicholl, Nick Sevier, Dixey, Eckert and Johnson but it was a penalty and yellow card awarded against Reading when Johnson was illegally attacked on the ground that brought Grove back into the game. This time the kick, in front of the posts, was successfully slotted by Maryon and the score moved to 13 : 17 in favour of the visitors as the Grove faithful raised a mighty cheer to finally see a points scoring kick from their team. With some 10 minutes remaining it was once again Grove who launched into the attack and again it was Guy Nicholl and Wiltshire who stood out. With Grove now in all out attack mode and tapped penalties and penalty line outs coming their way a home score was looking inevitable and so it came to be as, following several individual thrusts at the Reading line, it was Gratwohl who broke through to touch down successfully and for the first time give Grove a deserved lead at 18 : 17. The crucial conversion attempt was however again sadly missed and so with just minutes remaining Grove had to hold on to the slenderest of leads to win the match. Ironically it was a long range penalty kick awarded to Reading which was Grove's final undoing as perhaps against all expectations the ball was superbly struck and sailed between the posts and over the bar to give Reading their lead at 18 : 20. With the final whistle imminent Grove launched a last big attack that saw Guy Nicholl beat everyone except the final defender, who successfully tackled him, to lose a match which, with their regular kicker on board, would definitely have been a victory.