Hope Valley veterans short of players but not courage

Hope Valley in action.
Hope Valley in action.

A depleted and ageing side battled their way to a 22-22 draw to maintain the promotion challenge of Hope Valley in Division Five East of the North-West League.

In their first match since the extended Christmas and New Year break, Valley had to make their furthest trip of the season to Leigh and deepest rugby league country. So it was no surprise that they travelled with only 13 players, no fewer than seven of whom were over 40, giving the line-up a distinct veterans’ feel.

However, they didn’t shirk the issue and could be proud of their performance, even though Leigh are among the strugglers in the division. Now they are ready for a huge match this coming Saturday when they entertain the current leaders, Broughton Park, at Hollowford Road, Castleton (kick-off 2.15 pm).

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Valley took the game to Leigh and opened the scoring with a penalty from one of their senior players, Mark Rodgers, and then a try from Andy Woodall after fine work by Paul Oldridge.

The hosts responded well and scored a couple of tries of their own to take the lead, but Valley refused to let their heads drop and captain Ben Somerton rampaged through the Leigh line to reduce the deficit to 17-15. Despite a yellow card, leaving them two men short for ten minutes, that’s how it stayed until the half-time break, thanks largely to the heroic efforts of Stephen Bradley, Chris Bateman and Luc Charmasson.

The second half was a more cagey affair with neither team willing to open up and expose any gaps for their opponents. Valley kept control of the ball for long periods, but it was Leigh who scored the next try, which extended their lead to seven.

Now the visitors faced a real test. But inspired by Kristian Williams, who took to a new backline position with gusto, and Ed Hodgson, who was tireless in the scrum and at every breakdown, they passed it with flying colours.

Good support work by Mark Blanchon helped march Valley back up the pitch, resulting in a second try for Somerton, and when Rodgers added the conversion, the spoiles were deservedly shared.