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Depleted Old Grovians delighted with bonus point
Rotherham Phoenix 38, Old Grovians 25
Not since the early days of playing in Yorkshire Division Four have Old Grovians been so depleted.
They travelled to Rotherham Phoenix with 21 players unavailable - which quickly became 22 as John Hinchliffe, recalled out of retirement as emergency cover, didn't even make the trip as he too was added to the injury list!
However, in the face of adversity (and a gusting wind), the visitors showed great character in this SSE Yorkshire Division Three clash.
The backs flashed with invention and flair and, in the early going, got reward for their enterprise as they opened a 13-3 lead.
The strain on their over-stretched playing personnel was taking its toll though. Debutant Richard Ayre suffered a rib injury in the early exchanges but played on for 70 minutes.
Fly half Adam Weaving picked up a groin injury in a passage of play that saw him sent to the sin bin - he wouldn't return - and Rotherham Phoenix, with a dominating pack, took advantage to head into the break with a lead.
The diminutive figure of Joe Harrison, just 5ft 6in, switched from full back to No 8, and first XV coach Dan Nulty (a winger) - an emergency substitute - came on at flanker.
The spirit and and tenacity of those wearing black and green had to be be admired. Rotherham ran in two more tries but Old Grovians continued to play with a refreshingly open and attacking attitude . . . and they were rewarded.
Winger Dean Hogg, back after a two-month absence, announced his return with a try and, with just two minutes to play, scrum half Ben Brown threw a dummy and ran in unopposed to score a crucial fourth try and secure a bonus point.
His celebrations were perhaps a little extravagant in the overall context of the match but thoroughly understandable in the circumstances.
The month-long break couldn't come at a better time for Old Grovians, who will now hope to rest bodies and minds and return stronger in the new year.
Certainly if the spirit shown in south Yorkshire is anything to go by, this is a side which will progress significantly after the winter break.
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