Newbury (23) vs Grove (20)
Grove gutted after having victory snatched away in an unbelievably long period of extra time.
Newbury just about looked the better side in the first half despite some flashes of sparkling play by the visitors. The Grove pack drove well during the half and Joe Bellinger, back at No.8, made some great breaks from the back line but it was Newbury who took a 3 : 0 lead with a penalty by fly half Ricky West, following a high tackle from a Grove defender. Another home side penalty attempt was then missed and some sloppy kicking out of hand plus some poor line out work by Grove allowed Newbury to keep on the front foot. They were then very unlucky not to score the first try of the match when the Grove defence completely opened up to let a Newbury attacker clean through to the line. Such was his surprise at the apparent ease of this move that he dropped the ball and Grove were let of the hook. Then, against the run of play so far, centre Brendon White for Grove, gathered and sped to the far end of the pitch and with one remaining defender to beat neatly flipped the ball to fellow centre Tom Clipsham who ran in a great try unopposed to put Grove into the lead. Fly half Harry Carr’s successful conversion extended this to 3 : 7. Fortunes were reversed however when Newbury’s left wing sailed over unopposed following a very clever and long cross field kick. With the difficult touchline conversion successful it was Newbury who perhaps deservedly lead 10 : 7 at half time.
The second half started with the Grove forwards exerting their dominance by turning their counterparts through 90⁰ to win a scrummage reversal but it was West for Newbury who extended the home side’s lead to 13 : 7 from a penalty awarded in front of Grove’s posts. Newbury continued to attack Grove in determined fashion but Grove were defending with equal determination and no breakthroughs were made. Lock Rory Gratwohl and Bellinger for Grove lead Grove’s next thrust at Newbury but the game had reached a position of momentary stalemate. Brendon White gave Grove hope after kicking long for touch especially when a Newbury player touched the ball for the line out to be rightly awarded to Grove but the forwards then lost the line out to relieve the Newbury defences. Nevertheless the ball was eventually recovered by young debutante winger Tom Wells who had a terrific long run out wide to then time a perfect pass for the supporting White who touched down with ease. Great rugby! Sadly Carr’s conversion missed but Grove were now within a point at 13 : 12. Grove substitutes Jimmy Wallbridge for Steve Dixey and Simon Peel for Tom Wells now entered the fray and play reached a new level of excitement with Grove skipper and prop James Eckert leading the way, supported beautifully by scrum half Joe Chilvers. Grove were now attacking mercilessly and were finally rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts from which Carr duly obliged and the visitors were deservedly in front at 13 : 15. The attacks from Grove continued and with the game expectedly nearing its end it was prop Cash Chilvers who smashed his way over to give Grove a 13 : 20 lead with a tremendous try. Carr’s conversion missed but the electronic scoreboard clock showed only 1 minute remaining. With Grove only needing to keep possession surely a great and perhaps unexpected away victory by them was about to be achieved. Undaunted however Newbury came back strongly and won a penalty which was kicked to the corner for a home side line out. The line out won the Newbury backs attacked and once again caught Grove napping and the unbelievable happened, another try to Newbury with a kickable conversion to follow. This was easily achieved and the score was 20 : 20. Surely that was it as 5 minutes of stoppage time had already been played although no noticeable stoppages or injuries had occurred in the game. Yet somewhat unbelievably a new kick off was ordered and the game carried on. Grove restarted traditionally rather than kick long for territory but nevertheless Grove’s full back Henry Day gathered and made a sensational run at Newbury side-stepping at least five defenders in the process. All to no avail as Newbury re-gathered and attacked strongly down the left wing, developing an overlap in the process. In desperation, Grove’s wing Guy Nicholl flung himself into stopping this assault but play was stopped for him to receive a yellow card and a penalty to be awarded to Newbury. With now an incredible 10 minutes at least of stoppage time having been played it was Newbury who stole the honours by converting for a 23 : 20 win, the referee calling full time immediately the kick had successfully cleared the cross bar.