Defeat at Donaghadee leaves the 1sts with a difficult task to achieve a top 4 finish.
Some positives from the youngsters in the pack but an inability to score and bad tackling led to a poor result
Valley made the long trip to Donaldson Park for a game both sides needed to win if they were to have a realistic chance of a top 4 finish and an All-Ireland Cup place next season. Following the loss to Omagh last week Valleys cause was not helped by a lengthening injury list but the team was a good mix of the old and the new.
Playing with the slope Valley started on the attack and had an early long range penalty attempt just short. However it was quickly obvious that the aggressive Donaghadee defence coupled with some direct back running was going to cause Valley problems. So it proved in the 9th minute. A Valley attack in the Donaghadee 22 was turned over and after a passage of play, highlighted by several Valley missed tackles Donaghadee opened the scoring with a converted try.
Valley continued to attack with prop Bennett particularly making inroads to the defence but there were no openings. After 17 minutes Donaghadee managed to relieve the pressure with a long kick to the Valley 22. The return missed touch and when Donaghadee ran the ball back a little chip by the scrum half again put pressure on Valley defence. Once again the Valley clearance to touch was skewed to the centre of the park where the Donaghadee backs had an overlap. Even then Valley should have stopped the play but again weak tackling saw Donaghadee score in the left corner. The Donaghadee kicker, who throughout the game did not miss any kicks, goaled the difficult conversion.
Despite these setbacks Valley returned to the attack. They had several penalty chances which they ignored and instead kicked for touch deep in the Donaghadee 22. Though the line out was working well with man of the match and acting captain Sharkey winning good possession, the follow up drives were still not able to pierce a hole in the Donaghadee defence. Valley were retaining the ball well and as half time approached it appeared that they must score. Donaghadee lost a player to the sin bin for persistent infringement but even then their seven man scrum were able to hold the much lighter Valley eight. The last ten minutes of the half had Valley encamped 5 metres from the Donaghadee line. Several drives were held up over the line but still Valley could not score. The half time whistle, when it came, had Donaghadee supporters and players cheering as they had kept their line intact.
The second half was a repeat. Again Valley opened brightly, were turned over by the defence and Donaghadee backs took full advantage as their direct running which again led to a converted try. Even though they led 21-0 Donaghadee were still concerned enough about the Valley threat to kick a penalty for a 24-0 lead.
Valley kept returning to the attack with the switch of positions between Holm and Best adding a renewed direction to their back play. However they still could not break down the stubborn Donaghadee defence. As the game entered the final quarter the Valley day was summed up when they decided to take a tap penalty close to the Donaghadee line. The ball was moved through several forwards but a strong tackle dislodged the ball which was eagerly snapped up by the Donaghadee backs who scythed through a despairing Valley defence for another converted try. As the game neared a finish another Donaghadee try came from another turnover in their own half leaving the final score 38-0.
This was amongst Valley’s worse defeat in recent years. Again in a game they had a surfeit of possession and territory but could not score. This coupled with unusually poor midfield defence will be a concern to the coaches. However they will take some positives from the way the young pack, with Treanor, McKenna and Primrose to the fore, held their own against a much bigger Donaghadee pack. Valley still have four games left to try and achieve a top four finish, though two of these are against the top two with Portadown, probable league winners, at the Cran next week.
Elsewhere Valley were buoyed by a fine victory in the league for the 2nds who won 30-26 against Carrick despite being reduced to 13 men through injury. The 3rds also won their Butler Shield semi-final game against Innishowen with an emphatic 47-3 score line.