In this promotion clash, Ensians knew that they had to deliver a top-notch performance to topple the unbeaten League leaders.
From the kick-off when they smashed into their opponents, it was obvious that the visitors were seriously up for it and they ended
up outplaying the hosts in virtually every aspect the game to come out clear winners at 21 - 0.
On a muddy pitch facing the wind, the Ensians tore into Grovians and knocked them off their stride from the word go. The back row of Sam Featherstone, Rob Arbuckle and Dale Kennedy produced a copybook display of counter-rucking and turned over ball after ball. When the home side did move the ball wide, they came up against fly half Johnny Ratahi and centres Tobias Gill and Luke Cowdell who flattened them with low tackles.
The visitors came near on 7 minutes when good picking and driving by the pack saw prop Ben Copley go close. Grovians missed a long range penalty on 10 minutes, but elusive centre Luke Cowdell made good ground up the left to be held up in midfield. The hosts infringed and full back Kristian Keinhorst converted a penalty to give Ensians a 3 - 0 lead on 15 minutes.
Grovians were producing some promising back play and their outside centre looked dangerous with several weaving runs, but the visitors' back three of Josh Howarth, Kristian Keinhorst and Nathan Rogers were sound in defence. A long kick through by the home side and a hurried clearance attempt produced an anxious moment, but the ball was turned over and away went their backs once more on the attack.
In the scrums the lighter Ensians front row of Greg Jones, Rob Lyon and Ben Copley managed to hold their their own and flanker Featherstone and lock Steve Wade produced clean ball from the lineouts. The home side continued to compete, but they had no answer to the ferocity of the visitors' defence and the counter-attacking from the backs which kept the 3 - 0 advantage until the break.
In the second half fly half Ratahi used the wind to pin the hosts back in their own 22 and centres Cowdell and Gill used quick ball to take play over the gain line time and time again. Grovians strayed offside and Keinhorst kicked his second penalty to extend the lead to 6 - 0 on 44 minutes. It was now all-out attack from the visitors and the home defence held until scrum half Rob Lofthouse flicked a reverse pass to No.8 Rob Arbuckle coming through at full tilt at a great angle. He brushed off three would-be defenders and the full back, faced with Arbuckle galloping towards him, opted to stand aside rather than be mown down as Arbuckle blasted over under the posts for an excellent try. The conversion by Keinhorst stretched the visitors' lead to 13 - 0 on 52 minutes.
Grovians then mounted a series of attacks as at last their forwards and backs began to combine well and push play into the Ensians half. Just when they thought they were making progress, centres Gill and Cowdell would smash them backwards and the visitor's back row would be there to tidy up and set up a counter-attack. Frustrated with their lack of penetration, Grovians then opted for a kicking game, but full back Keinhorst and wingers Howarth and Rogers showed good positioning and catching to deal with any threats.
After repelling these attacks from the hosts, Ensians once again pinned the home side back in their own half with good drives from locks Wade and O'Donnell with their back row in full support. Clean ball came back from a ruck and full back Keinhorst dropped the neatest of goals to push the score to 16 - 0 on 72 minutes.
With their tails up, the visitors were straight back on the attack with Arbuckle and replacements Tom Dyson, Luke Freer and Matt Garrett all playing their parts. After battering the line for several minutes, fly half Ratahi forced his way through to score a fine try in the corner. Although the conversion failed, Ensians now had a virtual unassailable lead of 21 - 0 on 75 minutes. Grovians kept on trying, but could make little headway against the visitors determined defence leaving the final score at 21 - 0.
In this crucial promotion encounter against a good side, all aspects of Ensians' game came together in by far their best performance of the season to take them to the well-earned place at the top of their League.
Match report supplied by John Harrison
Click here for match report from the Old Grovian website.
Ensians 2nd XV beat Cleckheaton 3rds 10 - 5 with two tries from full back Sean Flesher.