On a cold wet miserable afternoon Grovians gained revenge for a defeat earlier in the season with what turned out to be a comfortable win. Once they settled down, the visitors dominated possession and territory to run in three tries and the hosts found themselves on the back foot for long periods. Despite the atrocious conditions 'Ensians persisted in trying to move the ball wide in almost any situation, but cold wet hands caused many handling errors. For their part, the visitors adapted much better to conditions, using the boot to gain territory from which to launch attacks.
Play was fairly even for the first 17 minutes with Grovians hitting their stride with solid defence and gaining good field position with long kicks through. After an early missed penalty by the visitors, 'Ensians took a 3 - 0 lead with a penalty from full back Kristian Keinhorst after a good attacking move broke down near the opposition line. Within three minutes Grovians had responded with a long kick down the touchline and their winger won the race to the line to give them a 5 - 3 lead.
In the scrums the home front row of Greg Jones, Ross Myers and Simon Hill began to struggle and they started to lose possession as the scrum wheeled and wobbled. When they did manage to get the ball, it was untidy and scrum half Ieuan Cranswick and fly half Luke Freer were under pressure from a rampant Grovians back row. Despite the efforts of flanker Sam Featherstone and Steve Wade, the visitors also began dominating the lineouts too with the result that they were able to mount attack after attack. Home centres Luke Cowdell and Matt Garratt tackled soundly and occasionally tested the opposition defence in attack. The back three of Josh Howarth, Kristian Keinhorst and Nathan Rogers generally dealt well with the kicks through. However, just as half time approached Grovians spread the ball wide to put their winger over in the corner. The kick failed, but the visitors now had a 12 - 3 lead with the elements in their favour in the second half.
'Ensians made a spirited start to the second half trying to make use of the limited possession, but time after time they were let down by poor handling with the back row of Featherstone, Rob Arbuckle and Lee O'Donnell doing their best to tidy up. On 45 minutes a dropped pass in mid-field by the home backs allowed Grovians to kick through towards the opposition line. Although full back Keinhorst dropped on the ball, at the subsequent rucks it was quickly turned over and good hands put the visitors over half way out. The conversion stretched the lead to 17 - 3.
With the Grovians' defence very much in their faces all the time, the hosts struggled to put moves together. Centres Luke Cowdell and Matt Garratt tried hard to get over the gain line, but too often wayward passing or spilled ball brought things to a halt. With their tails up, the visitors were now very much in control making good use of the boot and the backs handling well in the dreadful conditions. Also their lively back row was always on hand at the breakdown to keep the moves going.
The constant pressure told with the home side conceding two penalties on 53 and 59 minutes with the confident Grovians' kicker extending their lead to 23 - 3. For the home side Rob Lyon came on at prop in the struggling scrum and Ali Campbell replaced the injured Josh Howarth on the wing.
In the last few minutes of the game, the home pack led by No.8 Rob Arbuckle and prop Simon Hill suddenly livened up and started pushing the opposition backwards in the scrums and generally setting about things with much more vigour in the loose. However, it was too little too late to affect the outcome.
Grovians came out on top because from the word go, they were far more up for it and their game plan was more suited to the awful conditions. The home side's attempts to throw the ball about came unstuck with wrong options and too many unforced errors. 'Ensians stuck to their task, but their performance on the day was well-below par with the result that they rarely threatened and allowed the visitors to control the game for long periods.
This defeat was a big set-back for 'Ensians' promotion prospects. Their points difference leaves them still second in the table being level on points with Harrogate Pythons, but Harrogate have a game in hand.
In a Merit game, 'Ensians 2nds lost to Huddersfield 22 - 0.