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Old Grovians take large step towards promotion
Buy this photo » Old Grovians scrum half Andre Lesur tries to brush off a Harrogate Pythons tackler at Elm Tree Farm
Old Grovians 20, Harrogate Pythons 3
Saturday, February 9 could be seen as a pivotal day in the SSE Yorkshire Division Four season.
Old Grovians’ press officer Richard Graves called this the most important match in the club’s history beforehand.
And, while the outcome was very much in the balance at half-time, with the hosts and leaders only being 3-0 ahead, they soon took a stranglehold on the contest against the third-placed club in the second half.
Also the day for both clubs was made better by second-placed Old Otliensians losing 17-12 at Wetherby, which means that the Old Grovians advantage over Otliensians is now seven points, with Pythons a point further back but crucially with a game in hand on the top two.
There must have been a few tense, nervous headaches at Elm Tree Farm at half-time as Grovians fly half Adam Weaving had missed three shots at goal and would have had another attempt were it not for backchat causing referee Jordan Wagner to reverse the penalty.
The only points came in first-half injury time when, with Weaving conscious of the possibility of making his hamstring problem worse, the final kick of the stanza went to full back Liam Brown, who stroked the ball between the posts from 40 metres out.
An intense first half that did the division proud also contained yellow cards for centre Gareth Phillips (Old Grovians) and scrum half Ben Cooper (Harrogate Pythons), the latter’s hands-in-the-ruck offence giving Brown his penalty opportunity.
While Grovians had shipped no points with Phillips off the field, Cooper’s absence was taken advantage off, chiefly by Grovians’ replacement scrum half Anthony Cadman.
Before the key Pythons player could get back on the pitch, Grovians had run in two tries.
Teenage left winger Ben Magee, who had been the hosts’ main attacking threat in the first half, went over on the left, Cadman’s dummy giving him enough time and space to cross.
Two minutes later, Magee was over again in more spectacular fashion after centre Anthony Griffin had caught a high kick and off-loaded.
Weaving, who now had the confidence to kick through the ball, landed both conversions and Old Grovians were in clear water at 17-0.
Winger Max Sharp pulled back three points with a penalty in the 50th minute but that was cancelled out by Weaving’s reply in the 62nd minute, although he also missed one in the 52nd minute.
There were some shuddering hits in defence, mainly by Grovians, and there was another sight to gladden the heart - that of Grovians prop John Oakes thundering into the Pythons 22, his pass then wrongly being ruled to have gone forward.
Late sin-binnings for lock Matt Leach and centre Steve Moss-Blundell (Pythons) and Andre Lesur (Grovians) made little difference to the outcome.
Grovians’ director of rugby Martin Whitcombe was delighted afterwards, saying: “This rugby club is going places and the team spirit is second to none.
“We gave away too many penalties in the first half through what I would call honest endeavour but Cadders (Anthony Cadman) is a wise old owl and steadied the ship for ten to 15 minutes after half-time which won the game for us.
“It has been a massive day for us with Otliensians also losing but we will give very opponent the utmost respect.”