Solomon breach fails to stop Valley's march to Grand Final
DeA fullback Mark Solomon became the first player to cross Asahi Valley's goalline this season. But it was small consolation, for that solitary try was not enough to stop the defending League champions from booking their berth in Saturday's Grand Final against AMI Aberdeen yesterday.
Valley won 14-8 in a stop-start game marred by overly officious refereeing at Happy Valley with DeA bearing the brunt of the referee's wrath.
'I must ask the referee and find out what we do wrong,' dejected DeA coach Jim Walker said diplomatically. The penalty count against DeA was staggering while Valley only conceded one penalty in the entire first half, a tribute to their discipline. But that is not to say DeA were anarchic.
DeA's fault rather lay in the failure to secure good clean ball. The forwards played in isolation and this lack of cohesion also translated into their set pieces being chaotic. The lack of good first-phase possession forced DeA's much-vaunted backline to feed off scraps.
By the time Solomon crossed Valley's try-line, finishing off a quickly taken tap penalty by Ricky Cheuk late in the second half with good support from centres Brett Forsyth and Logona Kerisome, it was too late for DeA, who had sunk under a raft of errors and penalties. For by then, Valley were leading 14-3 and had victory in sight.
A first-half try by Luciano Afeaki and three penalties from the boot of Carl Murray were enough to give Valley the edge. The champions led 8-3 at half-time with DeA's points coming off a penalty converted by Rob Naylor.
Time and again DeA were pulled up at the breakdowns. They were caught out in the rucks and the mauls. Their scrum was penalised. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.
Valley, in the meantime, stuck to a plan, keeping play judiciously inside their opponents half. Front-rower Ben Hindmarsh was the pick of the forwards while youngster Dan Bailey showed he has huge promise out on the wing.
But despite the victory, Valley captain Paul Dingley was still unhappy with his side's performance. 'We did not play well at all, but despite this we still won.' A true sign of a champion side.
But Valley were let off the hook. Forget the penalty count. If DeA had the gumption to play creative rugby, they might just have pulled off the biggest win in their history. DeA lacked a midfield marshal in the mould of Valley fly-half Murray. Andrew Chambers had a tentative game. And it seemed the DeA backs were intent on pushing the panic-button on the few occasions they won good possession.
'All they did was play a spoiling game. If they want to win, they should learn to play with the ball in hand,' Dingley said. 'We just cannot seem to get a flowing game going against DeA every time we play them. They were infringing all the time.'
The referee also thought so.