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Old Grovians go clear in second
Old Grovians 38 Leeds Corinthians 20
To achieve a bonus-point win against a greatly-improved Leeds Corinthians side will have been hugely satisfying for Old Grovians.
These were not the same opponents which they simply blew away in the first half of their first meeting this season.
Leeds are a side who now have structure in defence, they’re well marshalled by a fly-half who puts them in good positions around the pitch from which to launch attacks and in the pack they have a No 8 who carries the ball well, helped by a scrum-half who was a constant menace throughout the game.
That being said it was the home side who began as if the winter break had never happened. Ahead inside four minutes with a swift, incisive move that began with the back row at a scrum on Old Grovians own 10m line.
Winger Ben Magee was afforded space close to the right touchline and he exploited it, streaking upfield before intelligently chipping a kick over the fullback for Harry Cody-Owen to score.
Old Grovians enjoyed the lio’ns share of possession but a little rustiness was apparent as mistakes thwarted attacks time and again.
While flanker Jack Baker imparticular was proving to be an expert at stealing Leeds lineout ball, the homeside lost five of their own in a row.
An attempt at goal was turned down in favour of a tap penalty, only for Old Grovians to then concede a penalty themselves and at times possession was simply kicked back to Corinthians down the middle of the field with little apparent intent or direction. Such errors allow opponents to grow in confidence and Corinthians took advantage.
Leeds secured their own lineout, 10m from the tryline with their forwards driving, before releasing the backline and creating an overlap for their winger to touch down in the corner. Midway through the first half Corinthians had reduced the deficit to 7-5 and a team who’d lost just one of their last six were very much in the game again.
The Old Grovians back row in this match is as dynamic as you’ll find in Yorkshire 4. Whitehead, Baker and Cody-Owen are swift around the pitch, disruptive in the lineout, tough tacklers and strong ball carriers.
Combine that with the strength of lock Tom Dalton at full speed and that’s a combination that will prove troublesome for any defence - it was that combination which led to their second try.
Securing their own lineout, Dalton was allowed to get up a full head of steam, running over several would-be tacklers before slipping the ball inside to Cody-Owen who showed good strength to force his way over the line and extend the lead to nine at the break.
Joe Sowden replaced Ricky Hopkinson on the wing at the start of the second half and James Trenholme was introduced in the front row for veteran Dave Roberts. Trenholme was in the pitch for just 2 minutes 42 seconds before the official afforded him a ten-minute rest after making a high tackle, which the Corinthians fly half duly converted to make the score 14-8.
Arguably Old Grovians’ relentless and at times unforgiving defence has become this team’s identity this season. On this occasion, a man down, it wasn’t tireless tackling that was impressive but rather their discipline in retaining possession and affording Corinthians very little opportunity to exploit their advantage.
Weaving’s successful penalty kick meant that by the time Trenholme returned the advantage was still nine points and that was a position from which Old Grovians never looked back.
Within two minutes of returning to full strength they’d scored their third try. Ben Brown’s clearing kick was effectively backed up with a big tackle from hooker Mathew Worrall. Old Grovians won possession and centre Griffin ignored a two-man overlap to power over in the corner himself.
A fourth try - and a bonus point - was secured just after the hour when scrum-half, Andre Lesur ignored the irritation of his opposing number to snipe around the edge of the scrum for the try.
To their credit, Leeds Corinthians battled throughout and they got their reward when the referee awarded a penalty try against Sowden for obstructing Corinthians’ pacey right winger but Worrall immediately responded with another try for Old Grovians. This time Griffin turned provider as he got the ball away after gathering a chip over the top.
Leeds No 8 surged through the Grovians’ defensive line to run in a try from halfway with what proved to be the final play of the game to round off the scoring but the main objective had been achieved for the home side.
With Old Otliensians losing 21-10 at Mosborough, Old Grovians find themselves four points clear in second but still two behind Harrogate Pythons.