Grove (24) vs. Chippenham (7)
Grove give previously beaten only once league leaders Chippenham a bit of a drubbing at Grove on Saturday.
Although the weather on the day was fine the pitch condition at Grove was pretty awful but this turned out to suit the home team far better than their opposition who clearly had trouble coping with the mud and a slippery ball throughout the game.
Chippenham started strongly, pressuring Grove in their own half but good work by Grove’s pack, especially No. 8 Joe Bellinger and flanker Cash Chilvers, kept the visitors at bay until a superb break by Ben Nicholl, playing at inside centre, lead to wing Harry Carr diving over in the corner. With the try coming on 10 minutes fly half Roger Sevier increased Grove’s lead to 7 : 0 with a fine touchline conversion. Buoyed up by the lead Grove now started to play with real determination and Chippenham’s discipline started to waver temporarily. Nevertheless the league leaders fought back and pressuring hard were awarded three kickable penalties all of which were confidently put to the corner rather than at the sticks although none resulted in any score. With Sevier clearly struggling from cramp flanker Jack Horrocks came on as a temporary replacement and Grove re-jigged to accommodate. Half time arrived with no further scoring.
Sevier returned and Horrocks went back to the bench for the second half but the fly half almost immediately received a yellow card for transgressing at a ruck and Grove had to fight on for 10 minutes with 14 men. Surprisingly the resultant penalty attempt at the posts by Chippenham sailed wide so Grove were let off relatively lightly. Despite the manpower shortage the Grove forwards kept up the relentless pressure for the next 10 minutes with Chippenham now continuously putting up high kicks to get out of danger. Then with Sevier’s suspension complete Joe Bellinger received a yellow card for a high tackle. Horrocks returned in place of the clearly hobbling Sevier but Grove had to endure a further 10 minutes with only 14 men. Despite this disadvantage flanker Dave Wells made a terrific break, followed up by Guy Nicholl. Then from a subsequent maul lock Rory Gratwohl broke free to feed marauding scrum half Joe Chilvers who fed the ball to Carr. Once again the flying winger shot over the line to score his second try of the day and Grove were 12 : 0 up. Sadly the try scorer's conversion attempt fell just short.
Chippenham now struck back and from short range were able to cross Grove’s line for a worthy and converted try to bring them back into contention at 12 : 7. Bellinger returned from suspension and team skipper James Eckert came off the substitute’s bench to replace fellow front row man Steve Dixey, Jimmy Wallbridge moving to hooker. Despite Chippenham’s revival it was Grove, now back to numbers parity, who were now clearly getting on top and following further great forwards pressure the ball was fired along the line to centre Brendon White who sailed over in the corner for Grove’s third try and a 17 : 7 lead. Grove did not relax as Chippenham’s handling began to falter badly, allowing Grove to make territorial inroads, particularly through Jack Horrocks determined thrusts. Flanker Dave Wells having done his bit, now retired to allow Mark Tugwell into the fray and it was the giant replacement who immediately and superbly smashed his way to the line to feed Bellinger who touched down for Grove’s bonus point try, the score moving to its final position of 24 : 7 following Carr’s successful conversion. Despite the game clearly having been won, Grove’s pressure continued relentlessly with Carr, Ben Nicholl, Tugwell and both Chilvers brothers looking particularly dangerous, right up to the end.
This was a game where Grove’s tactical play had been brilliant and absolutely right for the conditions, keeping the ball tight in with the forwards for the majority of the time but then releasing the backs when the opportunities to score arose. Following the previous week’s surprise loss at lowly Buckingham yesterday’s result was just the tonic the Grove squad needed and sets them up well for the Oxfordshire Cup Semi-Final clash with Chinnor 2nds, which will be played at Grove next Saturday.