Midlands 3 East (North)
Belper RFC 1st XV 37pts
1st XV 20pts
VALLEY took a much changed squad to Strutts Field to play Belper, who have had a strong start to the season.
With the injury toll of the previous week veteran No.8 Gordon Calvert was called up to the first XV as Ashley Allen, Ben Parker and John Redhead were all unavailable for the back row due to injury.
So it was that Valley went on the hottest day of the season with an experienced pack perhaps more suited to a damp autumn afternoon.
Valley started the better of the two sides, with the pack developing quick ball Lee Steemson was able to scythe through the defence almost at will, but as has been too often this season so far the killer pass couldn’t be found and Belper were able to clear their lines and find some pressure of their own, resulting in two penalties to lead 6-0.
Valley should have come away with some points in these early exchanges, when a quickly taken penalty perhaps should have been kicked to the corner for a potential catch and drive, that the visitors had been utilising well.
Valley dominated the set piece throughout the game, but credit to the Belper scrum-half who was able to use his pace to turn bad ball into good and launch attacks.
Unfortunately despite this dominance Valley still struggled to get the quality ball to the backs that they needed to punch the holes through the midfield.
Belper scored two copycat tries in fairly quick succession as they exploited some poor defending down the blindside to move into a healthy 18-3 lead as half time approached Belper scored again.
Dave Walters continued his run of good form with some great returns from Belper kicks, b
t unfortunately had to be replaced at half time with a suspected broken hand.
More injury worries for the visitors as Duran Wardale came in the centres and Stewart Kirkup moved to full-back.
The second half started as the first had, with Valley dominating but Belper were again first to draw blood to put them 25-3 ahead.
But Valley’s forward dominance was eventually rewarded with a yellow card for Belper as they continually had to give penalties away to stop the Valley pack advancing and Valley quickly put two tries, by Calvert and Grainger, and a penalty to put them only five points behind Belper with around 20 minutes remaining.
It was then that Belper found another gear and some poor Amber Valley defending to score a try in the corner to leave put Valley under pressure and needing to move the ball to score.
It was in the final minutes that Belper put the finish on the scoreline as they intercepted a loose pass and scored under the posts.
Ultimately the loss was caused by a combination of the side being unable to turn their set piece dominance into quick ball for the backs and some defensive frailties that the coaches will surely be working on in training.
Without criticising the efforts of any of the pack, on such a hot day the last thing needed was the loss of pace within the pack.
Belper chose Stewart Kirkup as this weeks Dominos Pizza of Alfreton man of the match, not sure why, but perhaps being one of the only players left in the bar when Belper made the choice had something to do with it.
Things don’t get any easier this weekend as Valley host second-placed Dronfield in the league, 3pm.
Amber Valley 2nd XV 33
Belper 2nd XV 55pts
With a depleted squad Valleys 2nd XV welcomed their Belper counterparts to Pye Bridge. Some good individual performances bode well for the future, but ultimately Valley were undone by a lack of experience in key areas and an injury to Brian Koeglenburg late on which allowed Belper to put a gloss on the scoreline after Valley had rallied to within 10 points. Valleys Fizzio-Fit man of the match award went to Gareth Pilkington, who showed Captains resolve to tackle all day long and get the best out of his squad
Valley seconds travel to Dronfield this Saturday.