Workmanlike Valley push Club aside to take easy route to final
One try was all it took to lift defending league champions Asahi Valley into the final of the Grand Championship on March 17. A Pete Spizzeri steamroller gave Valley a 14-12 win over Hong Kong Football Club, who will now have to beat DeA to enter the final by the roundabout route.
So while Club and DeA - 20-17 winners over PLA Sports Institute yesterday - batter it out in the playoff this coming Saturday, Valley will luxuriously rest their limbs and prepare for their title defence.
'Club might think now that it is better to have another game. But it is better to relax and nurse those niggling injuries,' said Valley captain Paul Dingley after his side's workmanlike win at Happy Valley.
Dingley was a satisfied man, happy with the way his team had absorbed all the early pressure from Club, before clinically knocking the Sports Road outfit off their stride.
Club counterpart Adam Horler had asked his team to lift their performance for yesterday's game. But after a promising start, Club forwards and backs slipped into a familiar and tired old routine as they struggled to make any headway with the ball in hand.
For the second successive week they had to rely on goal-kicking winger Owain Morrison. The burly Morrison knocked over four penalties, two from near the halfway mark, to tantalisingly keep Club within sight. But although Club were in front for most of the game, it was always Valley who looked dangerous.
'We took a little bit longer than usual to settle down and were rattled at the start,' admitted Dingley. 'But we began to control the game as it went along and I knew we would win because the Club forwards were unfit and were tiring in the latter stages.'
Two early penalties by Morrison gave Club a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Locks Roger Patterson, Tim Hornibrook and number eight Hamish Bowden were in the forefront of play in this period and with the backs stringing together some fluid moves, Club began as if they wanted to pile on the tries.
The defining moment in the match for Valley probably came midway through this first period when stocky winger Andrew Wong-Kee made a huge tackle on Bowden, driving him back on his feet. That big tackle was a turning point. From nervous spectators, Valley suddenly began to assert themselves.
With the adrenalin still pumping, Wong-Kee was sin-binned minutes later, but he had made his mark. And even down to 14 men, it was Valley who looked like scoring just before the break. They did when fly-half Carl Murray knocked over a penalty to reduce the deficit.
Valley took the lead in the first few minutes of the second half when from a lineout, a forward's drive resulted in Spizzeri scoring. Murray missed the conversion but another penalty saw Valley extend the lead to 11-6. Two penalties from Morrison saw Club inch in front again.
But Valley were not to be denied the easy passage into the Grand Final. They set up camp for the last quarter inside the Club 22 and the pressure resulted in the decisive penalty for Murray.
'We put pressure on their scrum and it is a pity we couldn't turn it into more points,' said Dingley, whose only blemish all day was when he fumbled a pick-up from the base of a five-metre scrum with the Club line staring him in his face.
'My head was moving too quick for my hands,' said Dingley, annoyed that only one try was scored. But that was enough to see Club off.