Midlands 3 East (North)
Melbourne 1st XV 33pts
Amber Valley 1st XV 34pts
VALLEY had not beaten Melbourne in five attempts over the last two seasons and when they went down to 14 men when Steve Richter was sent off on 25 minutes the task looked beyond them again.
However, a superb team effort saw Valley race into a 31-7 lead before Melbourne fought back to leave Valley hanging on by the slimmest of margins.
Valley started brightly but it was Melbourne who scored first, Steemson and Kirkup had chased a kick well and put Melbourne under pressure, but from the breakdown Valley had not got their defence aligned properly and the Melbourne 9 spotted a gap down the blindside to score under the posts.
Valley started to take control of the game, with the forwards having the edge in the scrum and dominating the line, Andy Bell and Chris Varney again showing they are amongst the best second row partnerships in this league.
With Duran Wardale again marshalling the backs well, albeit with a much re-shuffled team, as the Dowdall brothers came into the centres, Shaun at inside and Valleys usual openside Liam at outside.
Kirkup was moved to full-back to cover for the unavailable Sims. Playing into the wind kicking for position was difficult but Shaun Dowdall used his running ability and good off-loading skills to put Valley on the front foot.
The pack competed well at the breakdown and Valley were able to work field position.
Parker pulled a try back after 15 minutes, a typical Valley try, picking and driving until a gap appears. The conversion was missed to leave Valley 7-5 down.
Melbourne moved the ball well, but Valley’s defence held up well aided by some poor handling from the home backs.
Adrian Head missed a chance to go over for a push-over try and it looked bright for Valley as Melbourne were reduced to 14 men for deliberately knocking the ball down as Valley looked certain to score outwide through Kirkup or Bonsall.
From the following scrum however it all looked as it would go to pieces as a fracas between the front rows suddenly saw the appearance of the Melbourne 10 into the fray.
The referee only saw the end of the confrontation and felt he had no option but to dismiss Richter.
With both sides level at 14 men Valley knew they had to up the pace to get another score on the board. This they did with a 20-metre driving maul, Parker again coming up with the ball as Valley moved 12-0 ahead.
Melbourne were soon back to full complement and Valley had some defending to do. The hosts were altering the play well between their pack and backs and were soon pressuring the Valley line.
Some resolute and disciplined defending kept the hosts out until the halftime whistle.
A positive team talk put Valley coming out of the blocks firing. With the wind at their back Valley were able to keep Melbourne pegged back and came away with a further three tries in the opening 10 minutes of the half.
It probably should have been more, but with 14 men the team could not have asked for more.
First up Lee Steemson was put in in the corner, a breakdown five metres out, quick ball from Chapman to Wardale and a perfectly times pass to Steemson.
It was almost a carbon copy try for Bonsall a few minutes later on the opposite wing, although Andy Bonsall had to use all his years of experience to reach for the touchdown right in the corner.
Parkers hat trick score came from nothing. From a scrum on the half way Chapman box kicked to the left wing, Melbourne failed to deal with it and Bonsall, chasing well, gathered and off-loaded to the supporting Parker, who had a relatively simple run in from the 22-metre line to score under the posts.
It was all looking a little too easy for Valley, and this it proved as Melbourne found some rhythm and put some good phases of play together.
A try almost straight from kick off gave them some hope, and then with Valley desperately defending Ashley Allen was sent to the bin for killing the ball.
Now down to 13 men, Melbourne had to take advantage and this they did with two tries as they used the extra two men to good effect.
Valley did continue to find opportunities, Bonsall almost got a second, another dive for the corner couldn’t quite match his first effort as was pushed into touch.
Valley did manage to get what would turn out to be a vital penalty, Dowdall slotting it to put Valley 34-26 ahead with 10 minutes to go.
Melbourne threw everything they could at the visitors but left it too late as they scored with the final play of the game to get a losing bonus point.
A great team effort, marred by a bad injury to Varney late on.
t was almost impossible to pick out an individual for the Fizzio-Fit man of the match award, but it was awarded to Parker for getting the vital scores.
Next week is Valley’s final away game of the season as they travel to Southwell, looking to consolidate sixth place in the league.