Grove (38) vs Towcestrians (12)
By John Sevier
Grove pulled off a great victory at Fortress Cane Lane on Saturday against high flying opponents Towcestrians who at the start of the season had deservedly beaten Grove 23 : 8 at Towcester.
Grove won the toss and chose to play the first half against the elements, i.e. ‘up the hill’ and into the teeth of a gale force wind. This proved to be a superb decision as the following account shows.
Immediately after the start of play Grove won a line-out, 5 metres from the Towcestrians try line. Hooker Steve Dixey threw the ball in which rebounded off a Grove player and straight back into his hands. Not needing a second opportunity he dived for the line and Grove were 5 : 0 up with perhaps 1 minute of the game gone.
Accurate place kicking was a near impossibility given the very strong gusting wind but full back Roger Sevier was unlucky with his touch line conversion attempt which bent but just not quite enough, passing the upright on the outside. Nevertheless a great start for our heroes.
Towcestrians were forced into an early substitution following an injury to one of their flankers. Grove pressed hard into the wind and new signing Joe Chivers playing at scrum half was looking dangerous. Towcestrians were in no mood to lie down however and a big attack by them following a tapped penalty lead to a try, although Grove defender and No. 8 Ben Nicholl, apparently unseen by the referee, was impeded in his defensive chase down. The conversion sailed over and the visitors were in front 5 : 7 with 17 minutes gone.
Grove struck back with strong running from Nicholl, lock Paul Miles and flanker Joe Bellinger but it was Chivers who suddenly emerged with the ball and with a lightning dash to the line touched down between the posts for Grove to go back in front 12 : 7, given Sevier’s, this time, successful conversion kick.
Grove were now looking very strong and the attacking pressure was kept on with powerful runs from Dixey, flanker Simon Peel, fly half Dave Johnson and centre Nick Sevier. Towcestrians, using the wind, cleared to halfway but Grove came back again with good penetration from Miles and prop Cash Chivers and with ball being passed through the hands of lock Richard Haire, Dixey and wing Guy Nicholl it was centre Tom Clipsham who finished off with a cool run to the corner for Grove’s third try and a lead of 17 : 7.
Play resumed but the Towcestrians substitute flanker was then yellow carded for ‘killing the ball’. Grove intensified the pressure through determined attacking from skipper and prop James Eckert and his supporting back line but it was the Grove captain who made it to the line, although there was a suspicion of a Grove knock on, for Grove’s bonus point try and with Roger Sevier’s conversion, a lead of 24 : 7.
Cash Chivers lead the next Grove attack but Towcestrians now stepped up their work rate and their powerful forwards advanced towards the Grove line with the help of a couple of penalties. Then Grove lost Dave Johnson to a yellow card. Towcestrians penalty awards now started to come thick and fast but the Grove defence, at least for the moment, held fast. Then following a penalty line out and subsequent drive the Towcestrians forwards crossed the Grove line but the ball was adjudged ‘held up’. Undaunted they came again and with irresistible pressure finally touched down for a good try with some 50 minutes of the match gone. With the conversion missed the half time score stood at 24 : 12.
Now with the wind at their backs and with a 12 point lead it was up to Grove to keep play in their opponents half. Simon Peel moved into second row when Rory Gratwohl came on at flank with Paul Miles going back to the bench and later Jimmy Wallbridge came on for Steve Dixey. Towcestrians now began to dominate possession but Grove were delivering very aggressive defence and the visitors were not breaking through. Then, with advantage appearing to have been played, Gratwohl stole the ball and shot to the line to touch down but play was somewhat surprisingly brought back for a Grove penalty. Roger Sevier easily slotted this to increase Grove’s lead to 27 : 12. Towcestrians did then advance into Grove territory but a great run from Bellinger reversed their gains and with Grove winning a penalty on the visitors 10 metre line Grove’s full back was again successful with a great kick to take the score to 30 : 12.
Again Towcestrians forced their way back into Grove’s territory with some very determined forwards play. Johnson attempted to clear the danger with a big kick downfield but the fierce wind took the ball over the dead ball line and play came back for a visitors scrum from where the kick had been made.
Towcestrians possession continued and it has to be said that their handling and inter-passing was terrific to watch with virtually no errors at all. At the same time however Grove’s ‘in your face’ defence meant that no actual ground was being gained by the visitors.
With the wind in their faces providing no real opportunity to kick out of their own half, Towcestrians bravely continued to try running at Grove until play was stopped for a yellow card to Bellinger who was penalised for a late tackle.
The next big Towcestrians attack was thwarted by wing Guy Nicholl who with a 'one on one' drive against his opposite number must have gained some 20 metres for his team. This was followed by a fly hack through from Joe Chivers, to take the ball over the Towcestrians try line but they collected and again worked their way back upfield until a Grove scrummage was awarded on the Towcestrians 22 metre line.
With the ball won by the home side it was then chipped over the opposition defences by Chivers for wing Harry Carr to neatly collect and score in the corner. With Roger Sevier losing his footing on the conversion and the kick thus missed, the score nevertheless moved to 35 : 12 and Grove knew they had the game won.
It seemed it was now just a matter of running down the clock as the winter gloom began to descend. Miles returned replacing Peel. Towcestrians had still not given up and their forwards delivered a fantastic drive to gain some thirty metres at one point and their great handling continued until Carr stole and sent them back to their own half with a chip kick. It was now a total war of attrition between the two sides finally halted when the Towcestrians full back received a yellow card for attacking Eckert on the ground after the whistle had been blown. This was then turned into a red card when the miscreant decided to verbally abuse the referee.
Taking the opportunity to really seal things up Roger Sevier put the final nail into Towcestrians coffin by converting the penalty to achieve a score of 38 : 12. Play continued in the same vein as before with Towcestrians retaining possession and driving until Grove stole and chipped through for a 5 metre line out. Again a massive forwards drive and slick handling by Towcestrians gained them a fantastic amount of ground and ‘defiance personified’ from the visitors was being witnessed.
Huw Lewis came on for Johnson and moved to full back with Roger Sevier moving to fly half. With Towcestrians now in the ascendancy Cash Chivers hobbled off with knee damage to be replaced by Peel and Grove re-jigged once again.
Eventually with visibility almost gone, proceedings were brought to a close and Grove had achieved a superb bonus point victory, deservedly moving them up one place in the league.