Promotion is the name of the game for Old Grovians next season

Ilkley Gazette: Old Grovians' Anthony Griffin employs the hand-off during their derby victory over Burley Buy this photo Old Grovians' Anthony Griffin employs the hand-off during their derby victory over Burley

Old Grovians 34, Burley 12

With Old Grovians sitting comfortably in eighth place with 45 points, thoughts are already turning to the 2014-15 campaign.

After the fourth win in their last six matches, last season’s SSE Yorkshire Division Four champions only need two victories from their final six games to be mathematically safe.

Old Grovians’ director of rugby Martin Whitcombe said: “We have achieved credibility as a club in our first season in this division, and we want a top-six finish, which gives us something to focus on for the rest of the season.

“We have some talented lads at this club - this is the most enjoyable coaching experience I have had so far - and we want to have a real go at promotion next season as the players will be a year older and a year wiser.

“We will give it a real shot but we need more strength in depth.”

In fact some of Whitcombe’s squad are so highly thought of that they are on the radar of other clubs.

He said: “Look at Ben Magee, who played full back for us here. We are delighted that players like him play for us, but we would never stand in his way if he wanted to move on.

“There are two sorts of club in rugby union - a coaching club and a buying club, and we are a coaching club.”

The downside of their initial campaign in the ninth tier has been the number of injuries that the team have suffered.

“We have used 52 players in the first team so far this season due to injuries and unavailabilities, and that is far too many.

“We have lost eight players alone in the two matches against Bramley Phoenix - and the injuries I am talking about this season have not been pulled hamstrings. They have been broken limbs or bones.”

On a day when just 12 games in the five Yorkshire divisions survived being ioff due to waterlogged pitches, Old Grovians’ Elm Tree Farm pitch stood up remarkably well to 80 minutes’ of action, and credit for that must go to groundsman Simon Wood, whose tireless work ensured the game went on.

When these two sides met earlier this season, Burley edged a thrilling contest by a single point, and in the opening moments it looked as if they may they pick up where they left off in October - dominating possession and scoring the first try after just seven minutes.

Old Grovians' back-line has been razor sharp since the turn of the year though, and with brothers Aaron and Ben Magee re-united, they now have pace in abundance, possessing a scoring threat from anywhere on the pitch.

Burley were cut open twice in as many minutes. Firstly, winger Aaron went on a mazy run from halfway to score in the left corner, and moments later Old Grovians took the lead when Ben came into the line from full back, and from 55 metres out burst through four would-be tacklers to cross the try-line.

Again the visitors hit back with a sustained period of pressure, and that brought its reward in the shape of a try for their full back, but Old Grovians who went into half-time with a 13-12 lead thanks to Adam Weaving's penalty.

The second half began in much the same fashion as the first, with Burley pressing, but this time they couldn't find a way over the line, and from then on the home side took control.

Three tries followed as lock forward Tom Dalton bulldozed his way over to score before centre Dom Copsey benefited from some great work at the breakdown by the forwards to turn over the ball and give Old Grovians their bonus-point try.

Finally Aaron Magee grabbed his second try of the game, brother Ben's dancing feet and upper body strength helping him to supply the pass which gave the winger a clear run to the line.

Old Grovians have now won five of their seven matches in 2014 - a remarkable turnaround for a team which won only three of their first 14 fixtures this season.

Finally the performance of referee Coralie Greaban shouldn't go unnoticed.

The sight of a female official taking charge of a men's rugby game is always sure to cause a stir on the sidelines but her performance was, by some distance, the best witnessed in an Old Grovians game this season.

Constantly up with play, she was decisive in her decision-making and clear in her direction to the players. It was a display of officiating which brought praise from players and supporters alike.

 

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