Midlands 3 East (North)
1st XV 23pts
Amber Valley went into their home game against Kesteven under no illusions that they would have to play to their strengths to pull off a win.
A number of area’s of play were identified for improvement by their coach prior to kick off, so the Valley players knew what they had to do and they delivered.
From the kick off it was Adrian Head who once again took his cleanly caught ball downfield and then offloaded to Ashley Allen in support.
A great start put Kesteven under pressure and as Valleys forwards took a hold of the set piece they eventually forced a scrum and from the drive, Ady Head dived over for his first try.
Both sides , despite the atrocious conditions, tried to play rugby, Valley’s off-loading out of the tackle was good, although at times the players enthusiasm to keep the ball alive led to turnover, which Kesteven, through their backs took advantage of well, moving the ball wide and using the extra yard of pace advantage to score a try of their own.
Valley however dominated the set piece throughout the game, denying Kesteven ball at vital moments, to either keep up or relieve pressure.
As the first half came to a close the referees patience with Kestevens rucking technique ran thin and he sin binned one player.
Half time came with both sides level at 7-7. Valley used the extra man to pressure early in the second half and through lineouts and scrums scored a try from Head, again barraging over from close range.
As the visitors went back to 15 men they continued to spread the ball at every opportunity and their fly half showed a good display of kicking, distribution and cutting runs to keep Valley’s defensive backs busy, but finally they squeezed through and went into the lead at 19-12 with 20 minutes to go.
Valley’s heads could have gone down, but further pressure should have led to a score earlier, but eventually Chapman quick tapped a five -metre penalty and darted over to put Valley back into the game.
Kesteven were still pressing hard to try and put the game beyond the home side, but Valleys defence creaked, but held firm.
As the game drew to a close it was then Valleys opportunity to put Kesteven on the back foot and a box kick by Chapman which landed just before the try line was deemed to have been spilled by their full back and Valleys number 8 Ady Head pounced and scored his 3rd try. It was a fine line whether the Kesteven player had grounded the ball and Valley were relieved that he judged it a try. Matt Ardern converted his second from four and Valley went on to win, secure a bonus point and do the double over Kesteven this season.
A number of players excelled in the game. Mark Burditt throwing in, Andy Bell and Steve Richter catching safely secured all the Valley lineout and disrupted Kestevens ball enough to force them to knock on, overthrow or commit infringements at nearly every throw in. Matt Goodalls chasing back saved Valley as he tackled a Kesteven player about to put the ball down for a try and forced him to knock on.
Gareth Turner put in a number of driving runs from second phase ball whilst Dave Walters caught and countered well against Kesteven’s long kicks downfield.
Coach Mark Brocklehurst said after the game: “ I asked for improvement in three areas and you delivered 100 per cent. We dominated in areas but there is always room for improvement that will only come from regular training”
Valley take on top-of-the table Notts Casuals at home this Saturday with high hopes that the recent improvements made will carry on into the next encounter.