Old Grovians go 4 from 4!
Groves win local derby
Old Grovians came into Saturday’s encounter at Elm Tree brimming with confidence, off the back of three morale boosting victories in their last three fixtures. Their opponents West Park Leeds had narrowly lost at home to high-flying Northallerton in their previous match, a result they would be looking to better this time around. Grovians were desperate to avenge their 1-point defeat away at West Park earlier in the season, a game they felt they should have won.
On a blustery afternoon, the men in green started in what has now become typical fashion. Aggressive defence in midfield, and powerful scrummaging from the tight five led to an early penalty just inside the West Park half. Using the conditions in his favour, skipper Ben Brown slotted the three-pointer to give Old Grovians an early lead. This was quickly followed up by the first try of the afternoon for Old Grovians. A counter attack from the OG back three led to strong field position in Park’s 22, with fly-half Alex Masterson finding Pad Burns on a neat run, the latter finding a way through the defence and rounding the fullback for his second try in as many games. Brown added the extras to increase the score to 10-0.
Hard carries from the returning Martyn Mitchell, playing his first game of the season for OG, and the rest of the Grove pack resulted in regular strong field position, only for handling errors and ill-discipline at the breakdown gifting possession back to their opponents. This would be the story of the first half, with further ill-discipline leading to WPL camping themselves on the Grovians try-line, opting against a shot at goal with a tap and go penalty. Grovians defended valiantly, until the referee gave a penalty try for hands in the ruck, suggesting a build up of infringements in the danger zone. Skipper Brown’s arguments fell on deaf ears, and the score was 10-7.
It did not take long for the men in green to hit back, the pack laying a strong foundation in the scrum, enabling the backs to do what they do best, Masterson and Max Kennedy making yards, before a defensive lapse allowed Luke Hope-Robertson to pounce on a loose ball, skating round the would-be defenders and touching down to the right of the posts. Brown missed the simple conversion, and the score remained 15-7.
The remainder of the first half followed suit with Grovians applying plenty of pressure on the opposition, only to forego their hard work with silly penalties. Lock Charles Cockshott was shown the yellow card for a late hit on the WPL fly-half, a collision which unfortunately resulted in a potentially season-ending broken tibia for the second rower. Solid midfield tackling from Burns led to a penalty fairly straight on, but Grovians were unable to capitalise and improve their lead, with the windy conditions pushing Brown’s effort just wide. The half time whistle blew at 15-7 to Grovians, who would have felt they could have been much further ahead.
As the second half blew, the words of both captain and coach rang true in the OG players’ minds, to improve their discipline at the breakdown and maintain their intensity, the game would be theirs. Grovians began the half defending on their own line, before an intercepted pass took the play back up towards half way. Impressive Grovians attacking build-up play led to errors and penalties from Park, who saw their inside centre sent to the bin for an illegal clear-out at the ruck. Grovians profited from this, with Jack Hartley eyeing up a gap in the defence to power through for Grovians’ third try of the game. Brown missed the extras, making the score 20-7.
WPL came back strongly, undeterred by the fact they were down a man, scoring the next try with a good miss-pass and a great pick-up by the open-side winger. Into the gale the conversion was narrowly missed, meaning their deficit stayed at 8 points. Grovians showed the grit and determination which has become a mainstay of their mentality of late, coming straight back from kick off punching holes in the WPL defence with strong carries from Joe Garforth and John Oakes, making his first OG appearance of the season. Another sin bin for WPL for a high tackle on Masterson followed, with skipper Brown opting for the corner. The bonus point try was secured from the lineout which ensued, finished when Adam Crooks rumbled over for his first ever Grovians score. With little under 10 minutes remaining and the conversion successful, the score was 25-12.
The result was settled when Matt Dakin scored his second try in as many weeks, finishing off some tidy build up play with an unconverted score in the far corner, but with injuries and fatigue seeping in, OG let in two tries in the final minutes of the game to bring the score a lot closer. WPL missed a conversion with the final kick of the game, meaning they finished with only 1 bonus point for their 4 scores, but Old Grovians would be happy with their afternoon’s work, the game finishing at 30-22. Another 5 points moves Grovians up to a respectable 7th in the table, with an always testing away trip to Wetherby next on the agenda.
Report by Pad 'The Gasman' Burns