Witney (15) vs Grove (14)
Grove lost out by just one point in the local derby match with Witney last Saturday in a game so evenly matched either side could have won.
After 10 minutes Grove opened the scoring with a penalty from scrum half Roger Sevier but this was soon followed by a completely undeserved yellow card for No. 8 Joe Bellinger when one of the Witney jumpers fell over in the line out, without being touched by anyone from Grove. With Grove down to 14 men the Witney fly half then hit the upright with a penalty kick directly in front of the posts followed by Witney being awarded another point blank penalty which they chose to run. Great work by the Grove defence, especially from Sevier, flanker Cash Chilvers and lock Paul Miles kept Witney at bay until Bellinger was able to return.
The Grove attacks now intensified with backs and forwards working beautifully in tandem despite numerous mysterious penalties being awarded against them by the referee. Eventually, following a sustained attack involving all of the backs, the ball was popped to hooker Steve Dixey who dived over in the corner to put Grove 0 : 8 up with half time looming. Just before the break another Witney penalty attempt from close range failed to find its mark.
Immediately from the restart Witney, now with the strong wind at their backs, developed an overlap and struck with a good winger’s try to take the score to 5 : 8. Grove came back strongly with centre Nick Sevier impressing with a one man drive against perhaps five defenders to advance well into Witney territory but this was to no avail as Dixey was yellow carded for clumsy use of the boot and Witney were awarded a penalty to take them back to halfway. Jimmy Wallbridge came on to replace the missing Dixey in the front row for the next scrummage with Chilvers retiring to the bench. A penalty attempt by Sevier was missed but then with a yellow card being produced for the third time in the match the Witney No. 6 left the field and the subsequent penalty was converted by Sevier to take Grove into a 5 : 11 lead.
Again Witney stormed back and were awarded another penalty when the fourth yellow card was produced, this time for Grove fly half Harry Carr who left the field mystified. The game was now between Witney’s 14 men and Grove’s 13! Flanker Dave Wells now had to leave the field with a head injury, replaced by Chilvers. Taking advantage of their numbers superiority Witney spread the ball wide and somewhat inevitably were able to touchdown in the corner. The difficult conversion was beautifully struck by Henry Lamb and Witney for the first time were in the lead at 12 : 11.
Grove charged back again with a penetrating run from Nick Sevier, supported well by Ben Law but it was Cash Chilvers who really made great ground rushing, crushing and dummying his way upfield until Witney conceded another penalty and received the game's fifth yellow card, Roger Sevier’s boot returning the lead to Grove at 12 : 14. Grove kept the pressure on with Bellinger, centre Brendon White, prop James Eckert pushing forward but Witney used the wind to regain territorial advantage until Carr was able to return, immediately showing his skills with a great elusive run through the Witney defences.
It was now all Grove attack but with Witney managing to keep out of trouble by good use of the wind. Then Lamb for Witney, with very little time left, beautifully struck a penalty from half way to put the hosts back into a 15 : 14 lead. Desperately Grove struck back hard but Chilvers was penalised for backchat and then yellow carded for going over the top at a ruck. Despite this critical loss Grove still surged all over Witney but finally time ran out and Witney had won by the skin of their teeth.
This had been an epic battle between two great sides but with numerous strange penalties being awarded and with the referee feeling it necessary to issue 6 yellow cards, the game had not been as free flowing as it otherwise might have been.