Hope Valley Hawks 72, Sleaford Spartans 36
RUGBY league side Hope Valley Hawks completed a memorable debut season in the 3VSport.com Midlands Merit League by lifting the play-off trophy in the Grand Final last Sunday at Bromsgrove.
In hot conditions and with two skilful sides, it was always going to be a high-scoring encounter, but Hope Valley came from behind in a defining five-minute spell just before the stroke of half-time to take a lead they never relinquished.
After twice holding up Sleaford players over their own try-line and defending 18 consecutive tackles, the Hawks marched Sleaford up the field for five-try hero Gethin Evans to land a sucker punch blow just before the interval.
Hope Valley conceded early scores to a sizeable Sleaford side after silly penalties and handling errors.
However, the Hawks managed to stay in touch with tries against the run of play from Connor Maskery, Evans, Rob Wells and Mike Shires, until Evans made the breakthrough to nudge the Hawks in front.
Despite the sin-binning of feisty loose-forward David Warren, the Hawks cut Sleaford to ribbons with some free-flowing rugby in the second half, resulting in further scores for Evans, Shires, McGuigan and Boam.
Valley conceded two soft tries during a scrappy five-minute spell, before regaining focus and scoring some spectacular tries with neat handling, off-loading and support play of the highest order to round out a memorable victory.
* Hope Valley is preparing to operate two teams during the new rugby union season, which starts on September 3.
Training will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Castleton Playing Fields from 6.45pm.