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Emphatic win is more than a statement by Old Grovians
Old Otliensians 3, Old Grovians 23
Victory over Halifax Vandals on Saturday, March 23 will comfirm Old Grovians’ promotion from SSE Yorkshire Division Four.
Despite going into this derby on a nine-game winning streak, Grovians' one defeat back in November - a humbling 21-0 reverse to Old Otliensians at Woodhouse Grove School - had rankled ever since.
The rematch deserved better weather. The rain was constant throughout on an icy cold day with the conditions testing underfoot but none of that detracted from what was an absorbing encounter.
From the first whistle, Old Grovians' much-vaunted defence was evident, shutting down Otliensians' ball-carriers, affording them little time and space.
Otliensians' back-row forwards - so influentiual in the season's first meeting - were shut down and struggled to provide the home side with any real forward momentum.
In contrast, Old Grovians played an astute tactical, kicking game, often forcing their opponents to turn around and play from inside their own 22 - a tactic which ultimately won them the match.
The home side opened the scoring with a straight-forward penalty conversion after ten minutes but that was the only score in a first quarter where both sides were testing each other out.
The battle in the scrum was fascinating, with the combination of Charles Cockshott, Dave Roberts and Tom Dalton at times brutally overpowering the right-hand side of the Otliensians pack.
It afforded Old Grovians a solid platform on which to build attacks, and with Harry Cody-Owen once again proving what an immense prospect he is at No 8, scrum half Andre Lesur was able to provide quick ball to his backs.
It was that quick recycling of possession which led to the game's opening try, the forwards punching holes in the Oltiensians' defence before Adam Weaving supplied centre Dominic Copsey, who's sublime grubber kick allowed winger Dean Hogg to win the race to the line and touch down.
Two tries either side of half-time effectively ended this game as a contest. The first on 38 minutes came from an Old Grovians scrum five metres from the try-line. Weaving committed two tacklers before feeding Anthony Griffin for the score.
The second was the result of a wonderful piece of opportunism. With Old Oltiensians attacking inside opposition territory, hooker Mathew Worrall pounced on the loose ball, fly kicking it through and outsprinting the defence over fully 50 metres to recycle possession and allow full back Ben Brown to score the walk-in try.
It gave Old Grovians a 17-3 lead and one which they never looked like relinquishing. Two further Weaving penalties extended their advantage, and while a fourth try to secure a bonus point would have been the icing on the cake, the satisfaction gained from this result should not be underestimated.
This was an emphatic response to the statement Old Otliensians made four months ago. Not only have Old Grovians now beaten every team in this division, but they have done so while shutting out their two nearest rivals over the last four weeks, restricting both Harrogate Pythons and Old Otliensians to just three points each.
This statistic is all the more remarkable when you consider that Old Otliensians entered this game as the division's top-scoring side - a statistic which now also belongs to Old Grovians.
With three games remaining, this result means victory over Halifax Vandals in a fortnight will confirm Old Grovians' promotion to Yorkshire Division Three.
Old Otliensians slip to 11 points adrift in second, alongside Harrogate Pythons, who hold a game in hand. The two meet on the final day of the season in what has the potential to be a winner-takes-all contest.