As often appears the case, two sides fighting for survival can get dragged into a dogfight. This was the case on Saturday 11th December as the 8th and 10th sides met at Malone RFC. The game was fast paced but both sides were guilty of too many errors. Portadown started off the more controlled and it seemed inevitable that their right wing would score early on, but a determined cover defence benefitted from his decision to cut back in. The visitors dominated early possession but didn't pose a credible problem for the home side's try line. Grosvenor's scrum was causing problems for Portadown and James Bowman was to the fore in this as he gave his much bigger opponent a torrid time, Grosvenor began to hold on to the ball for multi phased play and returning captain Andrew Kelly finished off a great team try with Adam Skelton adding the extras. 7-0 to Grosvenor. A magnificent break from the afore mentioned Kelly was well supported by Pollock and after he was held up in goal, the result was a goal line drop out. Surely this is an experimental law which needs reviewed. With great skill involving many players and covering a long distance, the defence gets to use a strong breeze to bring the game back into our half.
The nerves of both teams were showing and a disputed penalty against Grosvenor was marched a further 10 metres, giving the visiting goalkicker an easier shot at goal which he accepted, 7-3. Grosvenor's multi phased approach resulted in a try for Peter Davison. This went unconverted but Timmy McMullan increased the lead to 17-3. This was the half time score and with a wind advantage and a 2 try cushion, the home supporters were lulled into hoping for a comfortable bonus point win.
Their hopes would have been strengthened when McMullan slotted over another penalty for a 20-3 lead. Portadown had other thoughts and their ever dangerous full back and out half began to exert their influence on a seemingly lost cause.
A try brought them to 20-8 and from a penalty advantage a speculative kick pass was gathered by their wing, who scored in the corner and the conversion was successful, 20-15. Grosvenor just couldn't get out of their own half and a hitherto unlikely comeback was seemingly on the cards. A penalty from a scrum gave McMullan another shot at goal and he duly converted, 23-15. The knowledge that they needed to score twice to gain the lead, led to some extravagant play from Portadown, but the tackle of the game from Matt Johnston, loosened the ball for his co centre Mitchell McComb to sprint into the corner from 30 metres. The relief was palpable as most of the home team who still could, ran to celebrate with the try scorer. The extras were missed but a relieved home team and supporters enjoyed a tense 28-15 victory. The league is a long way from over but this was simply a must win game. My man of the match was the unheralded James Bowman at prop. The epitome of what Grosvenor rugby is all about.