Brave, late Hope Valley recovery scares leaders

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Unbeaten leaders Ashton-on-Mersey held off a brave fightback by Hope Valley 1sts to maintain their record

Trailing 14-0 at half-time, Hope Valley replied with 12 points in the second period as the leaders failed to add to their score.

Straight from the kick-off Valley’s performance looked a little flat as only a superb cover tackle by scrum half Steve Rawson prevented an early try.

An excellent smother tackle by Gethin Evans thwarted another attack, but the first try came as Ashton’s winger crashed through a would-be tackle to score out wide.

Despite a difficult angle, an excellent conversion was added.

Valley’s task appeared to be made easier as the visitors’ prop saw red for throwing a punch.

Valley’s numerical advantage, however, was shortlived as flanker Hein La Grange received a yellow card for persistent maul infringements.

With time running out in the first period and with Ashton having missed a simple penalty opportunity, it looked like Valley’s frantic defence would take them into the interval just one score behind.

But from the last action of the half the visitors’ scrum half managed to ground the ball against a goal post, giving the easiest of conversions.

Whatever was said at half time seemed to inspire Valley as they began the second half on the front foot and quick-thinking by Gethin Evans at a penalty saw the fly half crash over for a try.

Jake Oldridge’s conversion drifted narrowly wide.

Ashton were now controlling possession with “pick ‘n’ drive” tactics so often employed by Valley’s successful teams of the recent past, but without producing points.

Jake Oldridge’s clever chip kick caused chaos in the visitor’s defence and man of the match Steve Rawson reacted quickest for a try, converted by Oldridge to narrow the gap to two points.

Valley secured possession from the kick-off, but were unable to break through.