AUSTRALIAN James Nicholas will not forget his Old Grovians debut in a hurry.

First, he had to cope with a 32 degree drop in temperature from New South Wales to Otley.

And secondly, he was named man of the match in a 17-16 victory over Wensleydale that lifted his club two places up the Yorkshire Two table, and out of a ‘relegation place’ (although they don’t exist this season).

The 23-year-old from Sydney explained his switch, saying: “I have just graduated in international studies and arts after five years at university in Canberra.

“The offer to come here – my dad was born in Sheffield – came just as I was looking to work full-time back home doing an internship in consulting or business.

“I thought that it would be crazy not to take this opportunity, especially with everything that has happened in the world in the past two years, and my passport meant that a visa was no issue.

“I was supposed to come over on January 1 but Omicron flared up so I pushed it back.

“The temperature was 35 degrees when I left Australia and here it feels like minus five, so that is a real change, but the boys have welcomed me with open arms, it is a brilliant culture and it has been a great laugh so far and it was a great victory here.

“The main difference is that in Australia you are used to losing the skin off your hands and knees, whereas here you had the wind chill and mud.

“It was a hard-fought victory and we gave the extra five per cent towards the end that we needed to win the game, with our aggressive defence causing them to knock on.”

In a swirling wind at Cross Green that was mostly blowing across the field, Old Grovians led 6-3 at half-time via two well-struck penalties by centre Jake Bentley to one by Wensleydale fly-half Jack Reynard.

Bentley’s second penalty came after 33 minutes when visiting winger Paul Smith was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, thus thwarting a dangerous home attack.

The visitors’ man of the match Fergus Chapman, the long-striding full-back, was always a danger from deep, while both teams were held up over the line and both lost players to knee injuries – prop Louis Chapman for Grovians and hooker Tom Moore for Wensleydale.

It only took the hosts three minutes to extend their lead in the second half via hooker Adam Crookes, but Bentley, opting not to have a team-mate hold the ball via a fingertip, missed the conversion from in front of the posts.

He asked for assistance six minutes later at a penalty and stroked it over, but back came the visitors in the 53rd minute with a try by flanker Phil Carlisle that was improved by Reynard.

Nicholas was then sin-binned after a rolling maul collapsed, and the home side also lost full-back Kobe O’Brien (hamstring) and winger Aaron Magee (calf cramp) to injuries.

Bentley and Reynard swapped penalties to make it 17-13, and the latter added another after Grovians fly-half Ed Brown was yellow carded for interference.

However, great drives by lock Nicholas and prop Joe Kvedas, plus some tenacious defence, gave the home side the spoils.

Elsewhere in Yorkshire Two, Baildon lost narrowly, 17-10 at Wheatley Hills.

Rock-bottom Bradford & Bingley were thumped 66-7 at Pocklington in North One East, while Yorkshire One basement-dwellers Bradford Salem suffered a similar fate, going down 79-7 at Bridlington.