Chippenham (22) vs. Grove (12)
Grove lose out after a very impressive performance and a very even game.
Grove were cruelly robbed of a much deserved losing bonus point by a very good Chippenham side on Saturday.
The unbeaten league leaders were given a mighty scare by Grove when it looked for a period that the visitors might actually triumph or at least draw in Wiltshire.
Chippenham opened the game with all guns blazing and with superb running and passing between their very fast backs and a lovely rolling maul, were on the scoresheet within 4 minutes with a try in the corner. This was despite good defensive work by fly half Dave Johnson and flanker Cash Chilvers beforehand. Undaunted Grove hit back hard advancing to the hosts try line following good work by Chilvers and No. 8 Joe Bellinger in particular and a penalty was awarded which allowed full back Henry Day to have a pop at the posts, sadly without success. Grove’s forwards then showed their power, turning their opponents scrum through 90⁰ but the ‘no-nonsense’ referee made his presence felt by awarding a series of penalties to Chippenham and Grove’s advantage was lost. The visitor’s plight was then not helped when Chilvers was shown a yellow card for being offside followed quickly by a penalty try being awarded after a strong Chippenham drive putting the hosts up 12 : 0 after 17 minutes of play. The outmanned and so far generally outgunned Grove side now however began a remarkable fight back when lock Paul Miles burst free to pass to centre Brendon White who, with electric pace, shot off to the Chippenham line to score a superb try in the corner. Although the conversion was missed Grove were now back in it at 12 : 5 with 24 minutes gone.
The ‘whistle happy’ referee now punished Grove with a series of ‘marchbacks’ following dissent from some of the players. Apart from these setbacks for Grove the game had now evened up considerably and Chippenham knew they had a real match on their hands. Great kicking out of hand by Johnson kept the hosts at bay but continued stoppages by the perhaps now overly pedantic referee generally stopped the game from flowing. A ‘battle royal’ was developing between the opposing scrum halves which Grove’s Owen Gustafson was winning but before any more scoring could take place half time was reached.
Grove started the second half with the blustery wind in their faces and hardworking hooker Jimmy Wallbridge was replaced by Steve Dixey. Grove now took the initiative with wing Joe Chilvers having a great run only to be bundled into touch and Chippenham were beginning to look rattled. End to end play ensued but it was Grove who looked to be going to score next when wing Guy Nicholl beat several men to find Brendon White who, again showing phenomenal pace, sprinted to the Chippenham line but could not quite gather his own chip ahead. Grove were now very much in the ascendancy and following Chippenham losing ground for dissent, it was the visitors who surged towards the try line for Gustafson to find Dixey who smashed over to score a great try. Day’s conversion levelled the scores and the Chippenham faithful were temporarily silenced.
Play restarted and it was the Grove pack who were now beginning to dominate, turning their opponents at will, with prop Martyn Walsh in particular looking good. Chippenham were clearly not going to lie down and with Miles coming off injured, a quick tap penalty for the hosts saw them re-establish their lead following a dash to the Grove line. The conversion was successful and the score moved to 19 : 12. Grove now rang the changes with Simon Peel entering the fray at flanker, temporarily replacing Dave Wells who then returned to replace Miles. Great kicking by Chippenham kept Grove pinned back and the hosts were clearly regaining their confidence. Grove’s Jack Horrocks came on to replace Cash Chilvers who had had a tremendous game but who then had to return himself to substitute for the hobbling Johnson and Grove completely rejigged their team. Despite the Chippenham backs looking extremely lively again their Grove counterparts were continually in their faces to disrupt their attacks and yet again the Grove pack were able to turn their opponents to gain scrummage advantage. Then with time almost up Chippenham delivered the killer blow with a beautifully struck, long range penalty which took the score to 22 : 12. Grove tried desperately to hit back with great attacking work from both Chilvers brothers, Henry Day, Steve Dixey, Dave Wells, Brendon White, Simon Peel and captain James Eckert but it was too late and Grove had lost, with sadly no bonus point being gained.
This had been a terrific game to watch and it was generally agreed that a draw would have been a much more suitable result but this very good Chippenham side march on, still undefeated.