Yorkshire Division Three: Old Grovians 26 Northallerton 33

THE internet has many instances of car drivers spookily losing actual minutes of time in other-worldly experiences in fog.

However, on a sunny afternoon at Elm Tree Farm, Old Grovians (and Northallerton) players were left scratching their heads at the missing seven minutes (or probably ten if you allow for stoppages) of the second half of their Yorkshire Division Three match.

Northallerton, who haven’t lost for 33 league matches (including one draw) raced into a 26-0 lead in 33 minutes, by which time they had already secured a four-try bonus point.

But plucky Old Grovians, who had only won one of their opening four matches, had pulled a try back by half-time and, with the benefit of a stiff diagonal breeze in the second half, were twice within a converted try in the second half.

That period started at 3.50pm but, with the match bubbling to a nice climax, it surprisingly came to a halt at 4.23pm with referee Adam Houchin (Central Yorkshire Society) blowing the full-time whistle early.

As spectators and players gradually came to realise that there were still seven minutes to play, not including stoppage time, Grovians initially wondered if they had a case for a replay as they had the whip hand in the second half and were only seven points down.

However, their head coach Dan Nulty said: “We have picked up two bonus points and we will just take the result on the chin and move on.”

Nulty was incredibly proud of his troops, and added: “I was really pleased with the way that we played.

“They fed of our mistakes in the first half, where we couldn’t get beyond three or four phases, and the message at half-time was keep the ball for longer, and we got some well-taken tries.

“Matt Dakin and Sam Pickering played well, but a big shout to Charles Cockshott, who played for the whole 73 minutes despite having had a very difficult fortnight with his dad dying and having the funeral in midweek.

“Also Ryan Lister played well at No 9 and Ben Brown controlled the game with his kicking.”

Northallerton skipper Jonny Franks said: “We did not look at the league table, we just played the opposition, but we knew they would be tough at their ground.

“The closest we have come to losing this season was against Barnsley, when we trailed 23-7 with 15 minutes to go and we won 24-23, but Grovians played their pitch better than we did and they are a very good side.”

Old Grovians lost Joe Lawrence with a neck injury inside the first five minutes and Jack Hartley to a dislocated kneecap, which went in as quickly as it had come out, just before half-time, but they were also under the cosh for most of the opening stanza.

Northallerton fly half Ashley Rio missed a penalty in the second minute but converted tries by Doug Mulholland and Xander Metcalfe by the 21st minute.

Sam Taylor added a third try four minutes later, and the fourth came in the 33rd minute when Matthew Marsay finished off a wonderful team move that even had the home faithful purring.

Rio converted the latter score to make it 26-0 but Grovians gave themselves hope against the elements with a 36th-minute try by the left corner flag for centre Alex Masterson.

Grovians had the conditions in their favour in the second half, and gave themselves a lift with a try six minutes in by Anthony Griffin from a Pad Burns break.

Brown converted superbly, but the home side were not put off by the scoreboard blowing over and breaking, Joe Garforth – out injured – providing the necessary 'tlc' by applying gaffer tape to the fracture and putting the scoreboard behind the barriers rather than in front of them, intelligence that was put down to a Bradford Grammar School education rather than a Woodhouse Grove one!

Lister was then gifted a try when the ball went loose and ended up in his vicinity, allowing the half-back to pick up and stroll over for what must be the easiest score of his life.

Brown’s conversion made it 19-26 and, although Brown had to make a clearing kick from near his posts and Northallerton added a driving-maul try on the hour by hooker JP Coyne that Rio converted, back came the hosts.

Masterson made the visitors rue a missed tackle by scoring in the 66th minute, and Brown’s conversion again cut the deficit to seven points when referee Houchin brought the match to a premature end.

Second-from-bottom Grovians had a feeling that something was wrong when the returning Lawrence only spent something like eight minutes in the sin-bin despite the referee apparently telling them much longer had elapsed, but they still showed enough guts and spirit to believe that they will climb away from the nether regions of the table.