Happy Hope Valley maintained their unbeaten home record this season when progressing to the Second Round of the LBS Plate with a 34-13 victory over Ashton-under-Lyne.
On a glorious day for open, running rugby, it was like a throwback to Valley’s glory days of the 1990s with the club fielding a full squad and playing in front of a sizeable crowd.
Admittedly, that crowd had to put up with a dour first 20 minutes when both defences were dominant, and the hosts even fell 3-0 behind when a penalty was converted. But Valley soon found their stride once Ben Somerton had hauled them level with a penalty of his own after a superb break by scrum-half Rory Williams. And although Ashton went ahead again with a try out wide that was superbly converted, their lead didn’t last long as fly-half Gethin Evans powered under the posts for a try converted by Somerton.
By now, Valley’s front row was consistently decimating the opposition in the scrums and their stifling defence was forcing the visitors into errors. Matt Keeley gave them their first lead with an unconverted try and then a powerful run by Matt Johnson led to Jake Boak increasing it.
Johnson turned from hero to zero when getting a yellow card for a high tackle. But Ashton couldn’t take advantage, and Evans added his second try and Somerton his second conversion to put Valley in control at 27-10 up.
The visitors did reply with a penalty, but the final score was Valley’s as Boak capitalised on an error for another converted try that earned him shared man-of-the-match plaudits with Keeley. Valley return to league action this week when Bury visit Castleton.