Hope Valley 1st 34 v Eccles 3rd 17 12/11/2016

The 3rds travelled over hills and through the mist to Castleton and through greeted with clear skies in the shadow of Mam Tor knew it was going to be a tough afternoon as confronted with sloping pitch sodden in sympathy with the surrounding moorland ,a swirling wind and the home side using local knowledge to play uphill in the first half. Eccles started well with sweeping move seeing Matt Appleby held up over the line and from the resultant Nick Ayiekabusi forced his way over for the try .Hope then had a period of pressure as the 3rds tried to run the ball from deep instead of using the elements clearing their line with a deep kick and only a last ditch tackle in the corner from Appleby prevented a try but regained ball and swift hands saw them score in the opposite corner .A fine forward drive down the right saw the ball passed to Matt Parkinson who used his speed to out pace the defence to touchdown. A  yellow card to hope helped Eccles who created a couple of chances with breaks but had to wait until the last minute of the half to score pinching a line out with saw Appleby finish off with the try with Lewis Wilkinson converting A 17-5 lead at the interval was considered by all the pundits to be two scores short of a winnable margin plus injuries to Dave Cusick ( facial lacerations and end of game after 10mins ) and Alex Brinnigton (also facial but came back on masked like Zorro) maeant was going to be hard second period.It was straight from the off as Hope scored in their first attack and converted to narrow the deficit to 12-17 but Eccles had an early chance to reply as good counter created an overlap in the home 22 but a pass did not stick and the chance went a begging.The match turned increasingly attritional as play ebbed and flowed with Hope increasing the pressure with varied attacks especially with big forwards charging down the hill. The turning point was most controversial as an Eccles line out was tapped back over their own line where Alan Davies dabbed the ball down but an onrushing home player dived in on the ball to claim the try and his wishes were acceded to !!!!!!. The work became harder as more injuries took their toll Nick (leg) Alan (head) and Alex Pugh (leg ? nearly doing the splits as the ground gave way) departed the field .Hope finally gained clear daylight from a line out as their large prop bulldozed his way over to extend the lead to 26-17 Now down to 14 men which included the injured Alex (Roy) and Nathan Newlove it was will power which kept the team going enough to make Hope opt to convert a penalty to consolidate their lead .In final minutes a sweeping 60 metre move through tiring Eccles ranks saw the home side score a final try. A battling display with excellent and brave tackling but it was tough ask for the team especially the forwards to sustain the effort in holding on to a narrow lead in those conditions and uphill in that second half.So a big bravo to the whole ensemble with maestro of match going to Jason Davies not a leading light in comparison to the usual suspects but put in a dogged unsung display