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Old Grovians prove an irresistible force in derby
Buy this photo Old Grovians' creative influence Anthony Griffin truies to cut back inside Aireborough full back Anthony Clitheroe
Old Grovians 41, Aireborough 10
On an afternoon that was cold and sometimes windy on a pitch that was made wetter by rain and then hail, spectators were ready for a stick-it-up your-jumper type of match in this SSE Yorkshire Division Three derby.
But no-one had told Old Grovians, whose backs displayed speed, footwork, balance and handling skills that belonged more to July than January.
Left winger Deon Hendricks scored four tries, full back Ben Magee one and centre Jim Yates one, with Aireborough, who played their part in a match of few knock-ons, replying with a try by scrum half James Underwood.
Home fly half Adam Weaving added four conversions and a penalty, with his opposite number Nick Holdsworth landing a penalty and a conversion.
“The handling was exceptional,” said Old Grovians’ director of rugby Martin Whitcombe.
“When we spoke about the game beforehand, we knew we could play a game of rugby irrespective of the weather conditions.
“We have some quality rugby players at this club and that was exemplified by our No 8 Charlie Medley, who gave up the game for a while but is improving week upon week for us. He was the best player on the pitch today.”
The only tricky moment for the hosts came when Underwood’s converted try brought the score back to 20-10.
If Aireborough had scored next it would have been game on, but Old Grovians’ clinical handling and running then took them into clear water, with Whitcombe blaming the concession of five straight penalties for allowing the Yeadon visitors back into the contest in the first place.
Aireborough’s challenge seemed to be badly affected by a first-minute incident that left their full back Matt Osborn with a broken leg, flanker James Exley also having to leave the field with an injured knee after the accidental collision.
Both were trying to stop Old Grovians full back Ben Magee from trying to re-gather his chip ahead and, facing in opposite directions, slid into each other, Osborn being left holding his leg after an ominous crack was heard.
Rather than risk leaving him sitting on a sodden pitch, he was almost immediately carried to the hut at the corner of the field, where he was eventually tended by ambulance staff.
This injury seemed to take the wind out of the visitors’ sails, Aireborough’s coach Paul Exley explaining afterwards that Osborn had been one of their most influential players in their previous two matches.
Ben Magee was put in for the first try by his brother Aaron after five minutes, and it was Ben whose break created the space for Hendricks to cross in the 12th minute, Yates providing the link.
Aireborough’s best hope seemed to take the home side on in the pack, Holdsworth and Weaving swapping penalties around the half-hour before the weather worsened, Hendricks going over for his second try after 39 minutes and Weaving converting to make the interval score 20-3.
A great Aireborough pack drive gave Underwood the chance to dive over for his try in the 49th minute, Holdsworth converting, but just when it seemed as if their forward power would get them back in the match, they were hit by two tries in nine minutes that decided the destiny of the points.
First centre Anthony Griffin showed a beautiful mixture of balance and speed to glide through the left-hand channel and pop up a beautiful pass for Hendricks to complete his hat-trick, and Aaron Magee and prop John Oakes set up the position for Yates to score on the left.
Weaving completed a hat-trick of conversions in stoppage time when Hendricks pounced on a kick through to get his fourth try.
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