Swindon (35) vs. Grove (13)
Grove go down in opener
Grove’s season got off to a disappointing start at Swindon where, as well as playing for league positions, the Dave Hollister Memorial Cup was at stake.
Grove started brightly, forcing Swindon to play in their own 22 metre area and after 2 minutes were awarded a penalty which full back Roger Sevier sent wide of the posts letting Swindon off the hook. From the restart Grove went back on the attack but lost the ball, allowing Swindon to take play all the way to Grove’s 22 metre area where they were awarded a penalty, converted to give the home side a 3 : 0 lead. At this point, with the game not yet 5 minutes old, Grove lost hooker Steve Dixey to a nasty gash on the head, requiring hospital treatment. Dixey was replaced by Pat Wiltshire. Almost immediately following a high kick that was not gathered cleanly the marauding Swindon No. 8 went over unopposed for the first converted try of the day giving Swindon a 10 : 0 lead. Grove re-launched their attacks but Swindon now concentrated on a kicking game to keep out of trouble. Sevier attempted a second penalty from his own 10 metre line but again the ball flew just wide of the upright. The next penalty for Grove was sent to the touchline but a subsequent penalty allowed Sevier’s successful kick to take the score to 10 : 3. Further handling errors from Grove then allowed their hosts to move into Grove territory until a penalty attempt at the posts by them was missed. Grove’s scrum half Joe Chilvers made constant solo inroads into the Swindon defence but too many errors were creeping into Grove’s game and progress was continually halted. Just before half time flanker Jack Horrocks made a good dash to the line, supported by strong pressure from his fellow forwards but with the ball again being spilled forward no further scoring emerged. Simon Peel for Grove was now temporarily replaced by Jack Ponting.
Grove had definitely had the better of the half in terms of more attacking play but countless handling errors meant they trailed 10 : 3 at half time.
The second half saw Jack Horrocks replaced in the back row by Cash Chilvers and Simon Peel for Grove returned. Scrappy play from both sides eventually resulted in a Swindon penalty, successfully kicked to increase their lead to a flattering 13 : 3. No. 8 Rory Gratwohl and Cash Chilvers were now linking and working hard to make ground for Grove but it was Swindon who, playing with more composure than Grove, regained possession and charged into Grove with their winger only prevented from scoring by a great tackle from his opposite number Nick Sevier. Peel made a strong run back at Swindon but really Grove had still not yet looked like scoring a try. Centre Joe Bellinger made a great run up the middle but again the ball was dropped forward from his pass and advantage went back to Swindon who capitalised with a lovely long range attack which, through slick handling, beat the defence and lead to a second try, converted from near the touchline, providing a 20 : 3 lead. Swindon were now rampant and it was not long before their third try was scored in the corner. Again the difficult conversion went over and the score moved to 27 : 3. Pat Wiltshire and flanker Dave Wells were now substituted for Grove with Ponting and Horrocks returning but the Grove handling errors continued and little progress was initially made. Finally Grove did get back on the scoresheet when a short dash from Joe Chilvers ended with him touching down for five points. Centre Henry Day stepped up for the conversion to replace the hobbling Roger Sevier but his attempt missed and the score moved to 27 : 8. Swindon hit back with a penalty and followed up with a bonus point try to move the score to 35 : 8. With the end of the match in sight it was Grove’s Joe Chilvers who had the last say with his second try of the day to produce a final score of 35 : 13, Day’s conversion missing.
Overall, this looked to be a match between two fairly evenly matched sides but it was characterized by too ‘edgy’ a performance from Grove, seemingly lacking in confidence. This resulted in far too many handling errors and for periods in the second half Grove seemed to have lost tactical direction, preferring to concentrate on making too many short yardage gains from their forward’s charges rather than letting their backs run with the ball or use long range kicks to make real territorial gains. Hopefully with the return of some missing 1st team regulars and the inclusion of a couple of new players Grove’s fortunes will improve in the coming weeks.
The opinions expressed in this report are my own and do not necessarily reflect the way others may have seen or interpreted this match.