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Defence earn their spurs as unbeaten Old Grovians topple leaders
5:40pm Sunday 21st October 2012 in Sport
Harrogate Pythons 3, Old Grovians 10
Old Grovians gave a clinical performance to win 10-3 at Harrogate Pythons, remaining unbeaten in SSE Yorkshire Division Four while ending the hosts’ 100 per cent record.
Grovians travelled with a much-changed front row due to illness and injuries but were still confident of putting in a strong performance.
The game started with Harrogate controlling possession from the scrums with their large pack, and from this clean ball they decided to test out the Grovians midfield defence.
This proved to be a fruitless tactic, however, as the Old Grovians midfield pair of Gaz Phillips and Anthony Griffin threw their weight around from the off and continually forced the Gate backs onto the backfoot or into handling errors.
Grovians also competed ferociously at the breakdownm, which allowed captain and fly half Adam Weaving to dictate play using an astute kicking game or testing the home defence out wide.
The match followed a similar pattern for the rest of the first half, Gate having more possession but being unable to break through the Grovians defence.
Brad Williams, Tom Adams and Harry Cody-Owen continued to scythe down the big Gate runners and turn over ball.
Eventually the pressure told and another handling error by the Gate backs allowed the prolific Ricky Hopkinson to pounce on a loose ball and sprint over from 50 yards, leaving Weaving with a touchline conversion, which he duly dispatched to give Grovians a 7-0 lead.
The rest of the first half ebbed and flowed but there were no clear-cut chances for either side so Grovians went into the half-time break 7-0 to the good and having navigated the difficult slope.
Gate proved why they were top of the table though, and came out firing in the second half.
The two large second rows rumbled up the pitch but every time they went out wide they could not break down the visitors' defence.
The key moment in the match came 20 minutes into the second half as Grovians were faced with three scrums on their five-metre line and what looked like a certain pushover try.
However, Grovians were having none of it. The front row of Dave Roberts, Matt Worrall and Dan Gullick summoned up the strength to repel the scrum, leaving the Gate No 8 to try and pick and go, only to be smashed back by a superb double tackle from Joe Sowden and Ben Brown, forcing a knock-on and allowing Grove to clear their lines.
Eventually Gate got on the scoreline with a penalty that reduced the lead to four points and Grove to playing the last ten minutes without Roberts.
Grove again proved to be up to the task, however, and with Weaving, Joel Bradley and Ben Brown controlling field position with astute kicking and the impetus made from the replacements, with Dave Foster and Josh Feeney adding fresh legs, Grovians secured a penalty on the touchline 40 yards out. This was again slotted by Weaving to restore the seven-point cushion.
In the last five minutes of the game, Gate continually tried to run out of their own half but the Grovians defence did not budge.
Cody-Owen and Williams were still at the forefront and finally managed to force Gate into a mistake to end a pulsating game.
Grovians must now look to take this level of performance into next Saturday's game against Knaresborough.