NEAR unbeatable Grove passed their new year’s test against Devizes, denying the Wiltshire club what would’ve been a shock Southern Counties South victory.

Following Devizes’ disappointing draw against Swindon College Old Boys before the turn of the new year, focus quickly turned to hosting table topping Grove – who have lost only one game all season.

Devizes welcomed back Craig Bryant into the back row while Tommy Hamill returned to fill the full back role.

Devizes played down the slope in the opening half, and they were consequently more dominant in possession and forced Grove to weather an early storm.

Despite this, a grubber kick caught the home backs out and a Grove winger pounced on the bobbling ball to register an early try.

Devizes had opportunities to get back into the game, but were inaccurate with the ball in hand and struggled to retain possession.

Grove took full advantage of this, and quickly found themselves 12 points up – a score that remained for half time.

Playing up the slope, Devizes faced a huge challenge in the second half if they were to take anything out of the game.

Though the opening 15 minutes were evenly matched, Grove’s class started to tell. The visitors quickly added a third when the same winger that touched down the league leaders’ first notched his second.

Matters were further compounded when Grove centre Guy Nicholl picked off a Devizes attack to intercept and run all of 60 metres of go under the sticks to make it 22-0.

During this period Grove were reduced to thirteen men due to breakdown infringements.

Not for the lack of effort or commitment particularly from the back row of Osborne, Hine and Bryant, Devizes took the game to Grove in the final 15 minutes which saw them restore at least some credibility.

Initially, replacement winger Oli Bird was nearly into the left-hand corner only for a superb Grove cover tackle preventing the score.

Devizes fought back, and after a sweeping move towards the left wing in the Grove 22, as Sam Holloway burst through a pair of Grove defenders to make it 5-22.

With only a few minutes left and with the visitors tiring, Devizes worked the ball wide for Oli Bird to get a well taken try down the left wing and cut the deficit to 12 points.

A losing bonus point couldn’t be secured, though, as Devizes ended the weekend fourth in the table.