Belper RFC 29
Amber Valley RFC 17
Belper started the New Year hoping to have a change in fortune in the league and get the results that recent performances have merited.
And they certainly received a boost with this victory over their local rivals, which lifted them off the bottom of the Midlands Three East (North).
With Amber Valley coming to the Strutts, Belper knew they had to be ready for the visitors and their no-nonsense rugby.
Belper made several changes from the last outing with Tom Mathews returning to open side, Andy Birchett back in at 10 and Jack Smith at outside centre. The bench was also strong with Rob Yates and Jack Blount coming back in.
Valley started the game by kicking towards the Chevin and soon had Belper under pressure. Belper could not clear their lines effectively, which eventually led to a penalty to the away side. This was missed and seemed to jolt Belper into action.
Then came a period of play where Belper dominated. Strong runs from Tom Stones and Bryan O’Gorman were causing problems and Belper took the lead through the boot of Tom Stones.
From the resulting kick off, Belper pushed again. A solid lineout was won and James Naylor fed the ball to O’Gorman, who put the defence on the back foot. Quick ball to Tom Stones allowed him to break down the left. As the defence closed in, he managed to hold the ball up before popping it up to captain Tony England, who was able to drive over from close range for the first try of the day.
Belper soon struck again, although this time with a bit of fortune. Again following a lineout and good support play, Belper found themselves just outside the away 22.
As Naylor passed to Birchett, he tried to fire a pass out wide to Smith. As he did so, he did not see the run by Tony England, so the ball hit the captain on the head and fell forward into the arms of O’Gorman. With the referee shouting play on, O’Gorman beat his man before passing the ball back to England to complete the score. Stones then converted.
Belper were managing to compete with Valley at the setpieces, something they failed to do in the last fixture between these two sides. Strong scrumaging from Beef, Haines, Woodward, Watson and Rice was at least giving Belper some ball this time. With Roberts and Mathews on the flank, it was a strong front eight performance.
It was Belper who struck next. Again, good runs from the forwards pushed Belper into a promising position. As the ball broke, Tony England chipped the ball deep into the 22. With Tom Hallam and Tom Mathews chasing, they turned the full back over and Belper stole possession back.
Naylor broke and saw the run of Smith, who picked a good line to score under the posts. Amber Valley pulled a try back just before half-time.
Coach Barden sent the home side back out in the second half with instructions to keep focused and to not get drawn into the upfront battle Valley wanted.
It was some 25 minutes into the half before Belper got the deserved bonus point try. A great lineout from Haines saw Belper break quickly. James Naylor stepped inside his man and, with Blount taking the defence away, Naylor passed to O’Gorman, who powered under the posts to secure the win.
Valley did strike back before the game finished with two late tries.
This was a solid home performance and one in which Belper must build on if they want to climb the league. Valley are always a tough side to play against so a bonus point win was something to be pleased about.
Man of the match for Belper was O’Gorman with powerful runs and tough defence.
This week, Belper are away to Ashby RUFC.