Rugby: Milton Keynes edge thriller with leaders Grove

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MILTON Keynes expected a close game on Saturday but didn’t think it’d be such a fine margin as they beat Southern Counties North league leaders Grove 22-20.

Milton Keynes played down slope but it did nothing for the home side, Milton Keynes with a nervous start, gave away a penalty in front of the posts, it would have been criminal to miss, with all points on offer would need taking, this they did and within two minutes had points on the scoreboard.

This was the wake-up call that the home side needed as they tackled and scrummaged the ball back to the Grove defending line.

On 13 minutes, Phil Powell zipped the ball down the three quarter line for Gavin Whitehead to score in the corner, though the almost impossible attempt at the conversion was missed.

As expected, Grove answered with a try of their own though again the conversion almost impossible to split the up rights.

Milton Keynes levelled things up on the half hour as they were awarded a penalty for Grove not releasing the ball on the floor, Phil Powell steps forward, made the conversion, and evened the score at 8–8.

With 10 minutes to go before half time there was yet more drama with a breakaway again by the Milton Keynes three quarters and Gavin Whitehead. On his way to the line he was tripped but managed to get back on his feet to score. Powell, now with the wind under his control, kicked the two points to take the score to 15-8.

Finally a silly mistake by the Grove number 8 constantly on the floor, Milton Keynes were awarded a penalty try. Once again Phil Powell added, what turned out to the most important kick of the game.

At the half-time break, Milton Keynes held the advantage at 22-8.

A 14-point lead against any other club would have been a large enough cushion, but Milton Keynes knew Grove would come back and attempt to steal the game.

And right they were as the visiting side put in a stellar second half display to take the game right to the wire.

But with 55 minutes on the clock, Milton Keynes had a chance to kill the game off as they broke down the field, but Dan Rolfe was stopped just short of the line.

Grove pinned the home side back against their defending line, this pressure was intense for the remaining 25 minutes when the inevitable happened and Grove crossed the line, the missed conversion pushed the gap to nine points.

Grove continued with their quest for points and just three minutes from the final whistle, the visitors executed a great diagonal run against the home defenders, to score in front of the post, and the conversion reduced the gap to just two.

It left for some nervous faces on the MK sidelines, but the clock ran down and the league leaders were beaten.

Grove were forced to relinquish their spot at the top of the pile to Reading Abbey, while MK remain third as the sides take their Christmas breaks.