Old Grovians 0 Old Otliensians 21
Old Otliensians, written off by many on the internet, delivered a performance that was full of hunger and nous to maintain their 100 per cent away record.
Old Grovians, however, were more disjointed and their unbeaten start to the campaign was in severe danger when experienced Otliensians No 8 Rob Arbuckle bulldozed his way over in the 47th minute to make it 11-0, the conversion stretching the margin to 13-0.
And the hosts’ perfect beginning was further punctured when visiting full back Kristian Keinhorst added a calm drop goal in the 70th minute to put Otliensians three scores ahead.
Otliensians captain Ieuan Cranswick, watching from the sidelines on crutches on his recovery from injuring both his medial and lateral cartilages, said; “We played well up front and when they tried to run it we were able to cope.
“Rob’s try was the game-changer. He hit the ball with pace and they could not stop him. Grovians seemed a bit flat but promotion is still between ourselves, Grovians and Harrogate Pythons.”
Grovians’ director of rugby Martin Whitcombe can see good times on the horizon for his club as they continue planning their move from Woodhouse Grove School across the road to Elm Tree Farm.
He said: “We hope to be playing there by Christmas and eventually have a clubhouse over there.”
But he was philosophical about the loss, saying: “These things happen in rugby and a good team does not become a bad team with one defeat but we have to respond to it in the right way.
“They were the better side but we were hit by injuries and unavailability in the back three and half-backs, especially Brad Williams, who was sent off last week.”
On an afternoon that was colder than it looked, Otliensians seemed more up for it but they conceded a penalty in the eighth minute, experienced Grovians fly half Anthony Cadman’s effort dropping short from between the Otliensians ten-metre line and halfway.
Livewire visiting scrum half Robert Lofthouse twice went for the tap and go from penalties, and on the second occasion he won a further penalty, which was kicked by Keinhorst in the 12th minute.
Grovians, with full back Ben Brown and centres Aaron Magee and Gareth Phillips dangerous when running from deep, could not mount any sustained pressure and they turned around 3-0 behind after favouring a more expansive game that was better suited to a warmer, drier day.
Three minutes into the second half, Grovians conceded a penalty for handling on the floor and it was compounded by backchat from Craig Blackhall, referee Tom Doig moving the penalty ten metres forward and Keinhorst landing it for 6-0.
Then came Arbuckle’s try, converted by Keinhorst, who added that drop goal.
Grovians tempers became frayed as much with some of referee Doig’s decisions as their own performance, but Otliensians had lock Steven Wade and hooker Robert Lyon sin-binned late on, Phillips joining them for ten minutes’ rest.
Fly half John Ratahi then added a 75th-minute try to complete a happy afternoon for the visitors. Pythons, meanwhile, led 22-0 at half-time at Leeds Corinthians only to be held to a 22-22 draw.