SOUTH WEST 1 EAST
GROVE’S late comeback earned them a dramatic 29-25 victory at home to leaders Oxford Harlequins, who finished the match with 12 players.
The hosts looked out of it when they trailed 25-12, but sealed the spoils when wing Harry Carr went over in the final minute.
By this stage Quins, who tasted defeat for only the second time this season, had seen No 8 Seisoni Tupou dismissed for a second yellow card plus flanker Richard Battson and centre Keni Fisilau sin-binned.
Had Quins won and secon-placed Towcestrians lost to Windsor rather than beating them, they would have been champions, but the Oxford side can achieve that feat with a bonus-point victory at home to Maidenhead on Saturday.
Missing regular kicker Roger Sevier due to a broken finger, stand-in fly half Henry Day and then Carr took on that role.
The latter landed two first-half penalties, which were matched by Quins fly half Will Hilton, while the visitors had Tupou yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle.
Carr was on target again just after the break, but Quins lock Allan Purchase drove over for their opening try.
Grove had flanker Dave Wells yellow-carded and conceded a second try, converted by Hilton when Quins wing Jack Robinson sprinted in from 35 metres.
Carr reduced the arrears with a fourth penalty for Grove who had Day sin-binned for a tip tackle.
Quins looked good when hooker Simon Chadbone was driven over and Hilton converted on 62 minutes.
But scrum half Joe Chivers began Grove’s comeback with a ‘show and go’ try, converted by Carr before Tupou was red-carded for another illegal tackle.
Replacement hooker Jimmy Wallbridge crashed over to make it 25-24, but Carr missed the conversion.
Quins felt hard done by as Battson and Fisilau were sin-binned and, having put eight men into a scrum, their inferior numbers created space behind for Carr to score Grove’s winning try.
Witney bounced back from two narrow defeats to triumph 31-13 at Marlow.
The visitors were far from at their best, but managed to score five tries.
Lock Charlie Bennett opened the scoring inside a minute, while flanker Tim Muller, scrum half Gareth Campbell, centre Carl Strutt and fly half Matt Clarke also went over.
Clarke kicked three conversions as Witney went ahead of Grove into fifth place by virtue of matches won.