Maidenhead (14) vs Grove (23)
By John Sevier
Grove avenge earlier league defeat by Maidenhead
Grove got back to winning ways on Maidenhead's artificial pitch on Saturday but it was a far from faultless performance. In particular the Grove lines out and scrummaging need attention because they either transgressed with far too many crooked throws or were turned too easily on the ground. On the positive side Grove's defence was as solid as a rock and 'no-nonsense' Berkshire referee Alan Green had a very good game.
Grove started in lively fashion with lock Richard Haire forcing a penalty after putting in a monster tackle. Fly half Dave Johnson then set up the penalty line out on Maids 22 metre line with a good kick but although the line out was won by Grove the ball was then lost and turned over at the next breakdown. A lucky escape for Maids. More huge tackles went in from Grove as they tried to recover but Maids cleared the danger area with a howitzer kick to touch. Centre Joe Bellinger lead Grove's break out but Grove were penalised for feeding at the next scrum. Maids attacked hard but great tackling, particularly from flanker Ben Law kept them at bay. Now Grove broke out with a superb dash from scrum half Joe Chivers ending with his chip for Harry Carr to chase but it was put into touch just before the winger could gather and Maids had escaped again. Grove then had the first of their crooked lines out and the advantage was thus lost. Maids came back strongly, taking play to the other end of the pitch and left wing Guy Nicholl had to put in a try saving tackle forcing player and ball into touch to stop Maids taking the lead. Grove then managed to lose the ball at their own line out and their backs also went offside to give Maids a penalty in front of the posts which they duly slotted for a 3 : 0 lead with 17 minutes gone. Almost immediately Grove were awarded a penalty and in the absence of Roger Sevier (dislocated finger) Harry Carr stepped up and duly obliged with a great kick to level the scores at 3 : 3. Grove next lost hooker Steve Dixey to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle but Grove then won another penalty. Again Grove's penalty line out was lost to a Maidenhead steal but with a home penalty kick at goal missed Grove stayed level. Play moved to Maids end of the field where they then threw a crooked line out but at the resultant Grove scrum the ball was taken 'against the head' by Maids and play moved back to Grove's end of the field. Maids then fluffed their next line out but Grove again lost the follow up scrum. Maids were now looking the stronger in attack but Dixey returned before any further scoring occurred. Bellinger then put in a colossal tackle and it was suddenly all out attack from Grove. Great passing from the backs saw Nicholl sprint for the line but the ball was stolen and taken into touch by Maids. Again Grove transgressed at the line out with another crooked feed and Maids escaped but Grove kept the pressure on until Carr was able to have a pot at the posts with another penalty. Unfortunately the kick was high and wide of the upright. Grove returned from the kick off with strong runs from Dixey and No. 8 Rory Gratwohl but it was Maids who extended their lead with another penalty from in front of the Grove posts. This was again immediately followed by a Grove penalty in front of Maids posts and with Carr's kick successful half time arrived with honours even at 6 : 6.
The second half started with a good solo run from Nicholl but the ball was lost. Ben Law, Johnson and Bellinger then had strong runs before centre Nick Sevier took it on with a mazy run towards the try line, finally passing to supporting full back Huw Lewis but unfortunately the ball was lost in his last pass to Carr but Grove now looked to be in the ascendancy. Grove kept the pressure on and with Maids desperately intercepting from an offside position Carr had no trouble giving Grove a 6 : 9 lead from the penalty in front of the posts. Maidenhead came back strongly but initially couldn’t crack the Grove defence. Matt Young substituted for Ben Law at flank but the Maids pressure was kept on until finally one of their forwards gathered and dived over to score in the corner. With Maids now 11 : 9 up the conversion attempt was missed. The flexible Ben Law now returned in the centre with Sevier moving to full back and Lewis coming off. Despite a few silly mistakes Grove now began to look more determined. Sevier began the next attack with a long run from full back, feeding Nicholl who in turn got the ball to Law before he was bundled into touch. Grove’s Pat Wiltshire now substituted for hard working flanker Simon Peel. Bellinger, Joe Chivers, lock Paul Miles, Law, Sevier and Wiltshire now all attacked aggressively and continuously until Joe Chivers gathered and shot over from short range to give Grove a deserved lead once again. Carr obliged with the conversion and Grove were 11 : 16 in front. Maids came back but were initially halted in their tracks by a great tackle from Matt Young. Nevertheless the Maids pack trundled to the Grove try line but couldn’t touch down. Finally a Grove defender went offside and the gap was closed to 14 : 16 by a successful penalty in front of the posts. This gave Grove the chance to get back into the Maids half and it was prop Cash Chivers who drove on strongly in the loose. Despite this it was Maids who advanced back into Grove territory but with Maids adjudged to be illegally turning the scrum Johnson was able to regain territory with a great touch kick. This time the line out worked perfectly for Grove and another penalty against Maids was awarded which enabled Grove to move to 5 metres from the Maids try line. Then with the line out ball won again the cleverest bit of play of the day emerged with Nicholl coming into the line, running at an acute angle, to take the ball and go over unopposed for a great try. Carr’s conversion was the icing on the cake and Grove were 14 : 23 up and looking to be out of sight given the limited amount of time left in the game. Desperately Maids went back to the Grove 22 metre area and forced a kickable penalty in front of the posts but refused the chance for 3 points, which would have seen them getting a bonus point. Instead they elected to go for the line out in the corner which they won and drove to the line to receive yet another penalty which this time they elected to scrummage. Again the Grove defence held firm until Grove were awarded a penalty of their own which Johnson gleefully hammered into touch for an avenging victory.