GSAL, after reaching the final of the inaugural Champions Trophy, visited Woodhouse Grove looking to continue their unbeaten run. Despite The Grove’s indifferent form, a win was certainly not a given; GSAL had recorded only one victory in the past eleven meetings between the schools at 1st XV Level. Â
Rain during the week, again meant that handling would be difficult for both sides. This combined with nerves led to a fragmented start with neither side looking at ease with ball in hand.
The visitors had the first chance to open the scoring after forcing a penalty in Woodhouse territory. However, the penalty attempt rattled the left post and the match remained scoreless.
The first points of the match came from the boot of Bailey Worcester. A routine penalty from 25m bisected the posts and the home side took an unexpected yet deserved 3 point lead.
The hosts looked to have their opponents on the ropes as the half drew to a close with strong defensive plays complemented by dynamic attacks but GSAL’s defence did not give up any more points during the first half.
GSAL earned a penalty on the stroke of half time. But the attempt fell short of the posts and The Grove led 3-0 at the break.
The second half started with Woodhouse looking to extend their lead and they did just that. An initial break from Captain George Styles gave The Grove ample field position to attack the GSAL try line. After a series of phases, George Armstrong stretched over to ignite the home crowd. Worcester’s conversion meant GSAL trailed by 10 points early in the second half.
Playing their third match in eight days, GSAL suffered injuries at regular intervals throughout the match. Injuries to front row forwards meant scrums were to be uncontested for the remainder of the second half, which inevitably slowed the pace of the match.
Continued Grove defence contained the potent GSAL backs, forcing turnovers to disrupt any GSAL momentum.
As in previous weeks the home side’s kicking game was calculated and precise. Worcester and Styles turned the GSAL defenders around time and time again, not allowing them chance to run in broken play. This tactic led to further points for Woodhouse Grove.
After forcing a penalty deep in GSAL territory, a quick tap saw The Grove camped on the visitors’ try line. Just as it appeared the chance may have been missed, Henry Boggie crashed over to notch his second try in as many weeks. A second Worcester conversion extended the lead to seventeen points.
A shell-shocked Leeds side tried to revive hopes of maintaining their unbeaten run but only found themselves further behind. The Grove’s forward pack displayed their dominance as a driving maul rumbled over from twenty metres out, all but securing a memorable victory. Tom Fountain touched down for the host’s third try of the match.
As the time wound down Woodhouse received a yellow card but this did not have a detrimental effect on the score.
The final whistle condemned GSAL to their first defeat of the season and the first time they have been shutout since September 2009. Woodhouse Grove recorded their third successive win, 22-0 the final score line.
The Grove will head to Durham School next Saturday looking to extend their winning run after a magnificent home performance against local rivals. GSAL’s next outing will be against southern giants, Millfield School. The two schools will battle for the Champion’s Trophy at Allianz Park on November 26th.
By Gregory Newark