IT LOOKED for all the world as if Old Grovians were heading for a sixth successive defeat in Yorkshire Two, but they overturned a late four-point deficit to win 26-23 at home to Ripon.

The next-to-bottom hosts had started promisingly against their visitors, with two sumptuous passes from skipper Ed Brown leading to tries for debutant centre Jake Bentley and experienced left winger Pad Burns.

Right winger Louis Anderson had also scored a try and added two conversions and Grovians were leading their visitors, who were three places higher in the table, 19-6 after 22 minutes.

Then doughty Ripon took such a firm grip on the game that it seemed unlikely that they would relent.

A converted try followed on the half-hour, and in the second half they added another converted try and a penalty to lead 23-19.

Old Grovians, conceding too many penalties, could find no momentum, and even their talisman Max Kennedy was found wanting, making several handling errors.

But with eight minutes left, Kennedy showed that class is permanent, by going on a jinking run that penetrated deep into Ripon’s 22.

There on his shoulder was scrum-half Rory Gaffney to score the winning try, which Anderson converted for good measure.

Skipper Brown said: “Max is fantastic and is such a good player, particularly in broken play.

“He is the best in the league in those situations. He might not score himself but he will put people over, like he did with Rory here, while against Yarnbury he scored four himself in about 20 minutes just by being in space and having good feet and being aware of opportunities.

“In situations like that he can get on the outside shoulder and use his footwork. He must be a nightmare to defend against but thankfully I don’t have to.”

On his try-scoring passes, Brown admitted: “My passes are just pass and hope that it doesn’t get intercepted, otherwise you look a bit silly, but it all came from us being in good positions on the pitch.”

As for general negatives, he said: “We gave away a lot of penalties, which has been an issue for the past few weeks, and we need to manage the referee, manage the situation a bit better.

“We get into a lead and tend to switch off a little bit but when we are creating chances we are scoring tries.”

This was only Grovians’ third win of the season, and Brown admitted: “It has been frustrating. This was my eighth game and my first win, but a couple of the losses have been really close where we have been in a position to win.

“There is so much talent in the team and we have a lot of players out injured and some are away, but the guys who step in do a fantastic job, such as Charlie Privett, at 18 years old in the front row, who was superb last week against Wath when it was honking it down, and fantastic again here.

“In a couple of years, we will be in a good position to potentially get into Yorkshire One, and our committee are doing a great job in putting structures in place, and we have a new camera system to record matches and then analyse them.”

Grovians cashed in on good possession to put Anderson over on the right in the third minute but then Ripon took advantage of two penalties three minutes later to reduce the arrears when full back Morgan Clark landed an easy kick at goal.

Brown’s incursion and long pass to the left put Bentley over in the 12th minute, with Anderson converting.

Clark’s second penalty made it 12-6 but another telling long pass by fly half Brown gave Burns the chance to score their third try in the 22nd minute, with Anderson’s conversion pushing the lead to 19-6.

The first scrum did not take place until the 26th minute, but a key interception by Will Broadbent did not deny Ripon for long and hooker Jamie Slator crossed four minutes later for Clark to convert.

Clark’s missed penalty was the last action of the first half but things still went Ripon’s way in the second half, Slator getting his second try seven minutes in, with Clark’s conversion giving the visitors the lead at 20-19.

Ripon No.8 Keith Anderson was sin-binned for a late tackle in the 54th minute but while he was off the field the visitors increased their advantage via a 61st-minute Clark penalty.

Then came Gaffney’s try but it still needed another great Broadbent tackle to deny the visitors, with the back-rower then receiving treatment after being kicked in the head by lock Iain Barker, which earned the Ripon lock a late yellow card from referee Gary Wigglesworth.

That sin-binning put paid to any hopes the visitors had of victory, with Grovians the ones left celebrating at the final whistle.