On a fine day for playing rugby, an undercooked Grosvenor XV welcomed Clogher Valley to Gibson Park for their opening League fixture. Having only played on one pre season warm up match and with a Covid affected training schedule, Grosvenor would have been wary of the threat posed by Clogher Valley and especially their much vaunted scrum.
The game started with an attacking flurry with Grosvenor interpassing up the left flank and with a try being awarded by the referee, only to be brought back for a foot in touch by a Grosvenor player. Both sides were keen to keep the ball in hand and this led to an open and attractive game. Dexspite early pressure from the home side, Clogher took the lead with a well struck penalty for a home player not rolling away. Matty Elliott left the field with a knee injury but with Ben Davies on the pitch, loose head prop Matthew Allen showed excellent speed to romp over for the first try of the game. Full back Adam Skelton added the extras for a deserved 7-3 lead to the home team. The Grosvenor scrum had shown great resilience and withstood the expected onslaught from their opponents.
The second half saw Clogher exert pressure on the home team and after a succession of penalties, the referee awarded Clogher a penalty try, leaving them leading by 10-7. This attack, early in the second half was the only incidence of Clogher being allowed to get near the home tryline, as the home side totally dominated territory for the rest of the game. It would be churlish to lay the blame on our attacking endeavours without acknowledging the visitors defence, which was sensational. They repelled Grosvenor runners within their 5 metre line for long periods. That we werent able to score more than a 40 metre penalty to equal the scores, is disappointing but the fact that we smashed their line for 20 minutes without profit is a concern.
A week ago, we might have taken a 10-10 draw, but the body language of both teams at the final whistle told a story. Clogher were congratulating each other on a scraped draw built on last man defence. Grosvenor looked a bit shell shocked at a game which they know they should have won.
In the cold light of day, Grosvenor will be delighted with their attacking potential, which is just a little bit away from a high completion rate. Perhaps the most pleasing factor will be a scrum which not only held out but won a deserved penalty in the second half.
Congratulations to Grosvenor debutants, Ross Copeland and Chris Jennings, both of whom had excellent games. They both will add value to the Grosvenor team and indeed the Club in general. On a purely subjective opinion, I would award MOM to Matthew Allen, who not only excelled in the scrum, but found startling speed to score our opening competitive try of the season.