Valley boys reduce Tigers to pussycats in grand final win
Tradition Valley were in no mood for fairy-tale endings last night as they won the G4S Grand Championship final with a clinical 29-3 victory over sentimental favourites DeA Tigers.
Every neutral fan at a packed King's Park, venue of most of the season-ending finals across all the divisions, was rooting for DeA Tigers simply because they were the underdogs. But it was a lost cause.
Whereas Valley have won a cupboard-full of silverware over the years, their opponents have yet to claim the grand prize. Now they must wait another year after an accomplished four-try victory by Valley.
Playing in only their third championship final in the history of the club, dreams of a Cinderella-like ending were crushed by Valley's massive set of forwards who swept aside all opposition easily.
'We had lots of possession which we used well,' Valley coach Brian Higgins said. 'It was a powerful, strong and skilled performance from the guys. They never let up.'
Tries from centres Ally McLay and Lee Jones gave Valley a 12-3 lead at half-time. Winger Dave Whiteford and substitute scrumhalf Kirk Munro added two more tries after the break, while flyhalf Ben Rimene knocked over a penalty and three conversions to seal a comfortable victory.
DeA's solitary points came from the boot of fullback Matt Price, who knocked over a penalty right on half-time. Any hopes that it would trigger a revival were quickly quelled as Valley's forwards, led by skipper Sean Jennings, continued to dominate the breakdown and rule the rucks.
At no stage did DeA look capable of threatening the watertight Valley defence. Sevens stars Keith Robertson and Rowan Varty made a couple of ambitious forays but were soon closed down. They had nowhere to run. Counter-attacks were few and rare as Valley, knowing how dangerous the pair could be from broken play, controlled possession well.
'They were a formidable force,' DeA coach Kane Jury said. 'They put us under a lot of pressure and made life difficult. There was no fairy tale for us against a very good Valley side.'
Making it to the final was in itself a creditable performance by DeA, but it was soon clear they did not have the firepower to repeat last week's upset win over Newedge Club.
When Valley's forwards began driving through, and setting up phase after phase of attacking play, it was just a matter of time before the points came. And the first try was just six minutes in the making when McLay completed a multi-phase move to crash over by the corner flag.
A great tackle by Valley scrumhalf Tim Alexander on DeA No 8 Carl Harrison forced a turnover resulting in Jones sweeping over, right on the half-hour mark, for Valley's second try.
Whiteford slipped down the blindside to make it 22-3 soon after the break. DeA's best chance came when Valley lost prop Alex Ng to the sinbin, but they could not make the most of the one-man advantage. With the clock ticking, Higgins used his entire bench, and replacement Munro proved he too could dance the devil as he tip-toed his way over the tryline for Valley's fourth and final try.
'We stuck to our game plan well today. It was a very good performance,' said the Champagne-soaked Higgins.
There was no magical finish to the season for DeA Tigers, but there was one for Higgins, who had engineered Valley's third Grand Championship final victory in the last five seasons.
'This is my last game in charge,' said a tearful Higgins. He was shedding tears of joy. In the case of DeA Tigers, they were tears of sorrow.