Newbury (24) vs. Grove (25)
By John Sevier
Grove win a nail-biter by the narrowest of margins at Newbury and in so doing move to 4th in the table!
Grove started in lively fashion, dominating both possession and territory with strong forwards play and great handling and thrusts at the Newbury line by wings Guy Nicholl and Harry Carr, centre Nick Sevier and full back Huw Lewis. Despite this the Newbury defence held strong until a great move, starting with fly half Roger Sevier dummying a kick ahead but instead popping a pass to Nicholl, allowed the wing to pass inside to centre Tom Clipsham who fed the oncoming Lewis who touched down for a superb try. With just 13 minutes gone Roger Sevier's conversion provided a 0 : 7 lead to the visitors.
Despite a short-lived comeback by Newbury it was lock Paul Miles who intercepted a stray pass from the hosts and ran magnificently to feed the supporting Clipsham who powered over for Grove's second try. Sevier added the extras and Grove were 0 : 14 in front after just 18 minutes.
Newbury were desperately trying to get back into the game but great tackling by the likes of hooker Steve Dixey, No. 8 Rory Gratwohl and flanker Matt Young kept them at bay.
Next it was Roger Sevier who sped off for the Newbury line only to be ankle tapped superbly to save another Grove try being scored. Ben Law lead the next big Grove attack with Clipsham delivering another terrific run but the move ended with a penalty to Grove and a yellow card for the Newbury full back. Roger Sevier duly obliged with his kick at the sticks and Grove were 0 : 17 in front.
Newbury came back with a massive forwards drive which ended with Grove's prop and captain James Eckert receiving a yellow card. With the Newbury forwards pressure still on Steve Dixey also received a yellow card to leave Grove with no effective front row although Jimmy Wallbridge came on as a replacement. Somewhat inevitably now Newbury scored through their fly half and with a successful conversion the score moved to 7 : 17. Taking advantage of the numbers discrepancy Newbury stormed back from the kick off but Matt Young stole and made a terrific break into Newbury territory and headed for the try line albeit without any real supporting player to help him. The Newbury defence did well to stop Grove's flanker and the move ended with a scrum award to Newbury. Scrums were now temporarily 'passive'. Although Newbury 'won' this scrum it was Grove who were next on the attack from scrum half Joe Chivers who burst through the Newbury lines. Terrific and very speedy handling in the backs saw the ball spun superbly to Harry Carr who went over to touch down but unfortunately the conversion was missed and the score moved to 7 : 22.
Carr was then unfortunate when he took a great interception that would definitely have led to another try but the referee had spotted an infringement and play was halted. The half ended with several players brawling on the touchline but nothing serious came of it.
Grove started the second half brightly with the now returned Eckert to the fore. The game then began to stutter with numerous penalties being awarded to both sides. Eventually it was a huge and tremendous rolling maul from Newbury which broke the deadlock and a try was very deservedly awarded to the home side. The conversion was missed but the scoreline was now 12 : 22. Grove came back strongly with Nicholl scything through the Newbury defence like a hot knife through butter supported well by prop Cash Chivers but play was stopped as a result of an injury to a Newbury player.
Grove debutante centre Henry Day now came on for Huw Lewis with Nick Sevier moving to full back and Jimmy Wallbridge returned to replace Cash Chivers. Grove kept up the attacking pressure with Nick Sevier having a good run from the rear supported well by Day who took the ball strongly into the Newbury half. Miles and Law drove Grove on further and at this stage there really was only one team in it.
Again Grove swept into Newbury with a fantastic running and handling attack started by Joe Chivers but including Roger Sevier, Day, Nick Sevier, Nicholl and finally Wallbridge. Carr then showed great enterprise but unluckily his chip over the defence just bobbled into touch. Grove kept the pressure on through strong running from Young, Miles, both Sevier's and Day but to their credit the Newbury defence again held strong. Then completely against the run of play a Newbury player made a terrific break and despite hacking on could not quite ground the ball for a try which ran away over the Grove dead ball line.
Undaunted it was Newbury who again came strongly but what happened next was quite outrageous. A Newbury ball player attacked the Grove line but was guilty of 'crossing' although this not seen by the referee. He then chipped over Nicholl's head to the waiting Roger Sevier who caught the ball and would have cleared the danger but Nicholl had illegally taken out the attacker without the ball after he had kicked ahead. Quite rightly Nicholl received a yellow card but with Grove expecting a Newbury penalty to follow the referee astonishingly awarded a penalty try! With the conversion kicked and the score moving to 19 : 22 an incensed Grove were now in danger of losing this largely one sided battle to their generally inferior opposition.
Despite their frustration Grove fought their way back into the game only to be repeatedly and often strangely penalised as they did so. With new found confidence against Grove's 14 men Newbury put in a big attack with a score resulting in the corner. The conversion was missed but Grove were unbelievably behind 24 : 22 in a game which previously seemed to have been wrapped up.
With virtually no time left Newbury were now desperately kicking the ball anywhere but Grove pushed back into their half and finally were awarded a penalty near their left touchline. With really only one option to take Roger Sevier stepped up and under terrific pressure put over one of the best and most important kicks of his life, despite very loud and unsportsmanlike barracking from one of the Newbury supporters as he approached the kick. Grove however were now rightly back in front at 24 : 25.
Newbury tried to come back through strong forwards work but to no avail as the Grove defence held strong and finally the last whistle blew and justice had been done.
James Eckert (Capt), Steve Dixey, Cash Chivers, Paul Miles, Simon Peel, Matt Young, Rory Gratwohl, Ben Law, Joe Chivers, Roger Sevier, Tom Clipsham, Nick Sevier, Harry Carr, Guy Nicholl, Huw Lewis.
Jimmy Wallbridge, Henry Day, Conor Bant.