Cheltenham (17) vs. Grove (17)
Grove eke out a draw at Cheltenham.
Grove and Cheltenham finished this extremely lacklustre match with honours even. Cheltenham were just about in the ascendancy through most of the match with Grove just about always having to come from behind.
Cheltenham had tried to play the more open rugby throughout but Grove’s defences proved a very difficult proposition to break down. With Grove short of a number of influential 1st team regulars they fielded newcomer Wes Westaway in the back row, 2nd teamer Mike Davies at full back and coach Craig Burrows on the bench. With an apparent influx of new players recently Cheltenham were clearly a better side now than the team beaten fairly easily at Grove earlier in the season.
After 11 minutes Cheltenham had the first opportunity to score with a penalty kick at the posts but the ball sailed wide. Grove were clearly struggling to string passes together properly in the backs and consequently were always on the back foot, relying on long touch kicks to keep out of danger. After 21 minutes Grove were awarded a penalty in their own half of the field and very ambitiously fly half Roger Sevier opted to go for the posts. Amazingly his kick flew accurately for some sixty metres to clear the bar and bisect the uprights and Grove were somewhat astonishingly 0 : 3 in the lead. Immediately however a bad Grove mistake saw the ball being passed to a Cheltenham player who gleefully ran some fifty metres to touch down for an unopposed gift try. With the successful conversion Cheltenham were 7 : 3 in front. It was the home side who came close to another score when superb Grove defence stopped what looked like being a certain try, given Cheltenham’s 3 man overlap in the backs. Late arrival Joe Bellinger now came on as a replacement for Westaway with Rory Gratwohl moving to No. 8. Grove then hit a short purple patch with strong attacks from centre Nick Sevier and Bellinger but despite crossing the Cheltenham try line the move ended with a penalty to the hosts. Nevertheless Grove advanced to the defender’s try line again and this time were awarded a penalty which Roger Sevier slotted for 7 : 6. As a result of the infringement Cheltenham's inside centre was sin-binned. Little more of note happened in the first half so just one point separated the teams at the interval.
With the game in something of a stalemate situation for the next twenty minutes Grove did not help themselves when scrum half Joe Chivers was yellow carded for ‘coming in at the side’. This was followed immediately by a push over try from Cheltenham and Grove were looking to be in big trouble at 14 : 6 down.
Grove now rang the changes with Jimmy Wallbridge coming on at hooker while Steve Dixey moved to the back row to allow Joe Bellinger to go to centre while wing Huw Lewis moved to scrum half and Nick Sevier moved from centre to wing. Grove now delivered some strong attacking play particularly involving Gratwohl, Dixey and lock Paul Miles and the Cheltenham backs were penalised for offside. Grove began a series of back row moves but the Cheltenham defence remained firm and no real ground was gained by the visitors. Finally Grove’s persistence was rewarded with a penalty and Roger Sevier duly did the necessary to take the score to 14 : 9. This was quickly nullified however by Cheltenham scoring from a penalty of their own for 17 : 9 but not before the most exciting event of the afternoon occurred when a streaker ran onto the field! This seemed to bring Grove to life with wing Guy Nicholl breaking out and sprinting down the left wing. With the ball then passed infield and along the line it was Grove’s skipper and prop James Eckert who collected the final pass to dive over in the corner. The conversion was unsuccessful but Grove were now back in the game at 17 : 14 and beginning to look the stronger side for really the first time in the match. Grove continued to attack but were thwarted by the Cheltenham backs who were now living offside and getting away with it. This meant that any possession the Grove backs got was being illegally destroyed by their opposite numbers. Eventually Grove’s best move of the day occurred when centre Tom Clipsham burst free on a great run down the wing finally passing inside to Guy Nicholl for the winger to run in and touch down between the posts. Grove’s euphoria was short lived however because the Cheltenham touch judge somewhat dubiously claimed Clipsham had stepped on the touch line, despite the centre’s total protestations the try was thus disallowed. With time now running out Grove’s forwards really stepped up the pressure bludgeoning their way time and again to the Cheltenham try line clearly trying to score a back row try. Three times they almost succeeded only to be awarded kickable penalties each time. Grove elected to go for scrums for the first two penalties but not being able to get over the line they finally went for the kick at the posts knowing no time was left in the match. Sevier easily slotted for the draw and a somewhat unsatisfactory match was over.
Grove team :-
James Eckert (Capt), Steve Dixey, Cash Chivers, Paul Miles, Richard Haire, Simon Peel, Wes Westaway, Rory Gratwohl, Joe Chivers, Roger Sevier, Huw Lewis, Nick Sevier, Tom Clipsham, Guy Nicholl, Mike Davies.
Craig Burrows (Not used), Jimmy Wallbridge, Joe Bellinger.