FULL back Joe Harrison is blaming himself for Old Grovians’ narrow 28-25 defeat in their Yorkshire Division Two derby with Roundhegians at Elm Tree Farm.

The 25-year-old, who was making his ‘second debut’ for the Apperley Bridge club after two-and-a-half years away, said: “I dropped the high ball which led to Roundhegians’ fourth try.”

That crucially put the visitors 28-20 in front and two scores ahead in the 71st minute, but Harrison is being hard on himself as there were other reasons for the old boys’ setback.

They included conceding six penalties in the opening 17 minutes, referee Colin Tovey being unsighted when Grovians were convinced that veteran lock John Oakes had scored a try on the hour, and Roundhegians being a different side now compared to what they were before Christmas due to more availability.

On a day that was so spring-like that watching injured Grovians' utility back Pad Burns went home to fetch his flip-flops, both sides displayed great continuity in their opening phases, following a minute’s silence in honour of former player Tom Dalton.

But whereas the hosts’ efforts came to nothing, the visitors took advantage of Grovians conceding their first penalty to kick for the right-hand corner, win the line-out and move the ball back left for full back Alex Jones to score in the fourth minute.

Fly half Nathan Barr put the home side on the board three minutes later with a penalty following a weaving run by centre Anthony Griffin, but Grovians then lost No 8 Martyn Mitchell to a pulled hamstring, just when it looked as if he was about to beat his man on the outside on the right wing.

Despite some great hits by hooker Matthew Worrall, the hosts were shipping penalties with great regularity, and Oakes was sin-binned in the 16th minute for successive penalties, having pulled down a maul and then not releasing a tackler.

Jones, who had missed a 13th-minute penalty after hands in the ruck, was successful this time to extend Roundhegians’ lead to 8-3 but it was ultimately his failures from the tee that allowed Grovians to get something out of the match.

While Worrall was proving a demon tackler, his throwing in to the line-out was his Achilles heel, helping to keep the home side under the cosh, and prop Phil Schledbauer scored the visitors’ second try in the 33rd minute, with Jones again missing the conversion.

Right winger Jonny Thorpe was mystified when referee Tovey sin-binned him four minutes later for being offside in what was his first offence and only Roundhegians’ second penalty, and Grovians cashed in when lock Matt Dakin drove over to score, Barr being off target with the difficult conversion.

But the visitors went into the interval 18-8 to the good when lock Andy Mulligan almost scored a try only to badly injure an ankle in the process, but left winger Jack Young scored in the aftermath.

Centre Jack Hartley was at the heart of the action early in the second half.

Firstly he stripped the ball to end a Roundhegians attack that was started by elusive centre Elliott Jackson, and then Hartley popped up on the left wing to score a 49th-minute try that was created by Barr’s break and Griffin’s support.

The action then began to get tastier as the volume of advice to referee Tovey increased from the Grovians’ supporters, and Hartley and Young had to be calmed down by the whistler in the 55th minute after an off-the-ball fracas near the touchline.

Oakes was then denied that score, but Grovians, who had the edge in the scrum courtesy of such heavyweights as Joe Garforth and Oakes, kept the pressure on and gained a penalty try in the 65th minute which put them 20-18 in front.

Jones missed another kick at goal two minutes later but was successful in the 69th minute to give Roundhegians the lead again at 21-20.

Then came Harrison’s spilt ball, with replacement Tom Bennett going over for Roundhegians and Jones, proving that practice does make perfect, popping over the conversion to crucially put the visitors eight points in front with nine minutes left.

Roundhegians now had a full house of league points, but Grovians secured their two losing bonus points after the sin-binning of Roundhegians prop Oscar Jedras in the 79th minute when replacement Liam Harrison scored a try a minute later.

Grovians, who remain in ninth, eight points above a relegation berth with six matches to go (improving Roundhegians are now 10th, just a point behind), then gave Dalton a rousing send-off in their post-match huddle before Joe Harrison revealed that he was 100 per cent certain that his side would stay up.

The latter, who moved from Grovians to Moortown, - “I played for Moortown against Grovians the season after I left, which was interesting as I had a target on my head!” - before his work as a graduate logistics manager for Morrisons took him to the Midlands.

There he played for Old Northamptonians in Midlands One East (the equivalent of two divisions above Yorkshire Division Two), and said: “Old Grovians are a great club and I have known some of the lads all the way through school.

“I have been playing at 9 or 15 for Northamptonians, but prefer 15 as there is more space.

“My work means that I rotate bases a lot, but I am back up North now so should be able to play for the rest of the season for Grovians, although I don’t know about next season.”