Witney (17) vs Grove (0)
Grove 'blown away' by ferocious wind and strong Witney defence.
Grove had a decent 1st half, holding Witney to just 14 points, despite a hurricane force wind in their faces and it felt this might be good enough for a 2nd half comeback with the elements in their favour. Grove lost their way in the 2nd half however, not using the wind to any significant advantage and succumbing to superb tactical play by Witney.
The wind was so strong that the initial Witney kick off ended behind Grove’s dead ball line so play restarted with a scrum on halfway. This was followed by a penalty award to Witney which their full back attempted to put between the posts but the kick missed and the ball again ended behind Grove’s dead ball line. For Grove it was scrum half Roger Sevier who began to look lively with some adventurous sniping and from one of his attacks it was fly half Dave Johnson who was set off on a superb run, dummying his opposition, before the attack ended with a line out to Witney near their try line. This was won by the hosts and a phenomenal kick out of deep defence ended with a line out 5 metres from the Grove try line. With Roger Sevier down with a dislocated finger the referee allowed the line out to be taken and play to continue and the Witney forwards pushed over for the first score of the game and a 5 : 0 lead. Grove hit back with a great break from outside centre Nick Sevier who was pulled down just short of the Witney line and Witney were again able to use the wind to clear any danger. Witney then increased their lead to 8 : 0 thanks to a penalty in front of the Grove posts. Grove tried to push back and both wing Guy Nicholl and flanker Ben Law had good runs before a Witney player went down injured. Unlike the earlier injury to Roger Sevier the referee did not restart the match until the Witney player was fully recovered! Another penalty award saw Witney increase their lead to 11 : 0, with a wind assisted kick. Grove resistance was not diminished however and lock Paul Miles, Ben Law and hooker Steve Dixey came to the fore with good charging runs. With Witney not retreating 10 metres following a quickly taken Grove penalty Witney’s No. 4 was sin-binned but a subsequent Witney penalty was slotted from half way to put the hosts 14 : 0 up. Again Grove hit back strongly with a terrific run from Guy Nicholl backed up by centre Tom Clipsham and ex-Witney lock Richard Haire but sadly for Grove the Witney defence was good enough to hold them out.
At the start of the 2nd half Grove’s expectations were high given the still ferocious wind was now behind their backs and with a catchable Witney score. Witney had other ideas however. Strangely a long range penalty kick at the posts was not attempted by Grove but a deep line out was won instead. The Grove ball was then lost in the line out as the wind carried it to Witney. The home forwards now worked well to push Grove back to their own half with a series of strong drives. Another line out was won by the visitors but amazingly they tried a long ball which naturally again went with the wind back to Witney. Full back Huw Lewis now came to the fore with a strong run but as the ball went to ground a Witney player went blatantly over the top of the ruck to give Grove a penalty, although no card was issued. The penalty was run and Haire again looked strong but again Grove then conceded a penalty and Witney advanced back to the Grove half. Witney were cleverly putting short sharp passes together and keeping possession and Grove’s efforts were not helped when Johnson had to leave the field with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. Conor Bant replaced Johnson and Grove re-jigged with Lewis moving to scrum half, Roger Sevier moving to fly half, Bant going to outside centre and Nick Sevier going to full back. Witney continued with their attacking drive finally conceding a 5 metre line out to Grove. This time the line out was won by the visitors and Roger Sevier put in a monster kick to seemingly get Grove out of trouble but stupidly one of the Grove players had attacked too soon, from in front of the kicker, and the result was a Witney penalty directly in front of the Grove posts. Even against the strong wind the Witney kicker could not miss and the score moved to 17 : 0. Grove could not seem to come to terms with the strong wind and continually tried to be too ambitious with passes that were too long and long line out throws which always failed. Prop Pat Wiltshire was replaced by Jimmy Wallbridge for Grove. Witney, with growing confidence, continued to play sensible rugby in the conditions. Grove then lost Dixey to injury and Ben Wiilkinson substituted. With Grove’s frustration growing a massive punch up started but nothing developed and no action was taken. Another Grove line out was lost due to a too long throw then, with Grove being awarded a penalty, Witney players would not release the ball for Roger Sevier to tap quickly. The referee did nothing and within minutes the same thing happened again and again no further punishment was handed out. When this happened a third time, with Witney kicking the ball away, following another penalty award, Roger Sevier’s protestations to the referee resulted in him receiving a yellow card! Despite Grove’s defiance, particularly from Law and Lewis, as a team they generally looked to be devoid of ideas. Witney’s forwards were now completely dominating their opposite numbers and Grove looked to be in disarray. Although Grove continued to attack they never really looked like scoring and the game ended with Witney very deserved winners and Grove needing to go back to the drawing board.