Amber Valley won an an enthralling contest by the slimmest of margins on Saturday in the Midlands Four East (North) with a 78th minute penalty try to overcome local rivals Belper 27-26.
This was a game decided by fine margins, Belper having the better of the first half where they converted every chance they got through some well worked tries.
It was the home side that took the lead through a Shaun Dowdall penalty, but the lead was to change hands as both sides scored and then almost immediately conceded, with six tries in the first half.
Lee Chapman got Valley’s first, his third in two games from push over tries.
With the back line struggling to find fluency and the pack getting on the wrong side of the referee’s decision every time Valley moved territory into Belper’s half, the play was moved back 30 yards. Luckily in the setpiece Valley were well and truly on top and so were able to keep Belper’s attacks at bay.
Belper retook the lead with another try under the posts before Valley hit back with penalty try for pulling down the maul.
Once again, Belper hit back immediately, and again a missed first up tackle and good support play from Belper gave them another converted try to put them 21-15 up with a few minutes remaining.
Valley blasted out of the blocks at the restart, a nice high kick from Dowdall gave Valley possession with a great hit by Steve Leadbeater and with the ball spun wide from a resulting scrum Will Hargreaves streaked away to score with the last play of the half.
Valley knew they had to tighten up defensively in the second half, and did so, with much improved line speed putting the Belper backs under pressure and forcing errors. But Valley were unable to convert pressure into points and despite a string of further penalties on and around their own line Belper cleared their lines.
This could have been the turning point of the match against Valley as Belper then disrupted a Valley line-out deep in their own half and from the scramble dotted the ball down in the corner to extend their lead to 26-20.
Once again Valley worked field position and the referee gave Valley their second penalty try with two minutes left on the clock.
Dowdall converted to give Valley the slenderest of leads at 27-26.
Belper now had to go all out to get the win and with Valley securing the possession and then Belper conceding a penalty all Valley had to do was catch the line-out, wait for the clock to tick and let Chapman kick the ball out to end what had been a great game of rugby.
Speaking after the match, coach Steve Grainger said: “We showed great maturity and strength of character to pull the game back from the brink. Today, we played to our strengths, last week we struggled up front but the pack were back on form and must take the plaudits for this win.”
Mark Burditt was awarded the Keepsafe Security Man of the Match award, a constant menace to Belper throughout the game.
Next, Valley travel to Bingham, who have had some good results of late and are sure to provide a stern test as Valley look to keep up the pressure on leaders Chesterfield.