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Debut delight for Old Grovians
Northallerton 17, Old Grovians 26
This performance was scrappy and at times lacked composure but ultimately it was good enough for Old Grovians to secure their first win in SSE Yorkshire Division Three.
It is a remarkable achievement for a club that was only founded in 2006 to be playing at this level - especially when you consider their success has been achieved fielding just one team, but that will change this season with the introduction of a regular second XV.
Old Grovians' director of rugby Martin Whitcombe underlined that after the game, saying: "When you consider the humble origins of this club, to be winning away against a rugby team like Northallerton in just seven years......no one could have dreamed that this would happen!"
It isn't luck that's brought Old Grovians to this point - there's a rugby structure in place now and a forward-thinking approach, which in turn has given the club a depth in playing personnel which proved itself robust enough to handle the most trying of circumstances at Northallerton.
Andre Lesur and David Foster were lost to injury in the week prior to the match, several other players were unavailable and then, at the last moment, starting hooker Matt Worrall and fly half Adam Weaving were both dropped to the bench after arriving late.
It wasn't an ideal way to kick-off a new season in a new league but Old Grovians overcame it all and dug out the win.
The visitors took the lead with an early Ben Brown penalty in an opening 20 minutes when both sides struggled to control the ball with any consistency.
The introduction of Worrall and Weaving marginally improved the visitors but all too often the at times frantic nature of their play turned over possession and made any consistency in the quality of possession difficult to achieve.
However, if both sides were looking a little rusty after a long summer off, so too was the referee, who inexplicably missed a blatant knock on in the build up to the game's opening try!
In fact the offence was that obvious, all 30 players stopped playing - including Northallerton's winger - but as the old adage goes, play to the whistle! He did . . . and strolled in from 40 metres to score and give the home side what proved to be their only lead of the game.
A Weaving penalty two minutes later meant that Old Grovians held a one-point advantage at half-time.
Old Grovians had a greater intensity about them at the start of the second half and produced a 20- minute spell which ultimately decided the game.
Debutant Pat Guthire in particular stood out with his tremendous work-rate at the breakdown and tireless tackling display.
Harry Cody-Owen also came to the fore and it was his turnover which led to Old Grovians' opening try, winger Dean Hogg getting their first try in Yorkshire Division Three.
Another Weaving penalty extended their lead to 14-5 before another strong run from Cody-Owen gave the back line good, quick ball, and centre, Dominic Copsey skirted past the full back to touch down under the posts.
Northallerton replied with a try of their own but Anthony Griffin effectively killed off any hopes of a comeback with the visitors' third try - the result of an impressive run from Hogg, who appears to have rediscovered the speed which made him such a lethal finisher two years ago.
Northallerton did cross for a consolation try three minutes from time but it was Old Grovians who marked their debut at this level with a win, leaving Whitcombe to reflect on a hard-fought victory.
He said: "It's what we wanted. We're learning as we go along and picking up points so we've got to say we're happy. It was a classic first game of the season - we can take a lot from that. We'll go away, we'll improve, we'll work at our game and we'll get better."
Another tough trip awaits Whitcombe's side next Saturday when they travel to Old Modernians, who themselves enjoyed an opening day win at Leeds Medics & Dentists
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