Ashton on Mersey vs Hope Valley
Ashton Dig Deep
Hope Valley at home. This fixture is becoming tighter each time Ashton on Mersey face off against them. However, it didn’t start that way on Saturday.
Hope Valley made the long trip and arrived with 14, Ashton made up the numbers for the away team bringing them to a complete 15.
Within four minutes of the game, Hope Valley were on the front foot. Some nice passing through their back line lead to their handy full back scoring in the corner to put them 0-5 ahead. This was shortly doubled from close range (0-10) when one of their forwards broke through at the breakdown. Ashton’s 15 really were struggling to match Hope Valley’s intensity and physicality.
Ashton on Mersey began to use the ball better and found themselves in a position to kick after the sustained pressure resulted in Hope Valley conceding two penalties. Luke Berry calmly knocked it between the posts to bring the game to 3-10.
There was plenty of talking from the Hope Valley side and little response from Ashton who again missed tackles, refused to hit low enough and had to avoid players jumping into tackles. Some strong running and smart passing saw Ashton close in on Hope Valley’s try line. However, a mix up in communication between winger Rob Cooksey and centre Dan Hopwood saw their fullback intercept and snatch his second try, which was then converted. The score now sat at 3-17. Towards the end of the first half Ashton received another penalty and went to close the gap further, but were unable to after missing the kick.
After the break and some strong words, Ashton still had no response. The hosts were making it far too easy for Hope Valley and they were able to convert another penalty. This momentum continued and lead to some strong carrying from the Hope Valley pack before their full-back grabbed his third try of the day. 3-25. At this point Hope valley were 22 points ahead and Ashton were facing an embarrassingly heavy defeat.
The players jogged back for the reset. The forwards gave a highly pressured chase leading their flanker to kick. A fantastic block from Ben Smith saw him chase and grab the first of a flurry of Ashton trys. This was then converted and Hope valley looked shaken for the first time. Ashhad Khan quickly bundled over Ashton’s second in the corner after a quick pass from scrum half Damon Wong to restore some pride and the score to 15-25.
Hope valley responded with two kicked penalties to release some of the pressure and looked to have sealed the game at 15-31. Ashton went back to basics and their spirit continued to grow, strong running from the back line centres and Max Short saw Ashton next to Hope Valleys try line. Centre, Dan Hopwood opted for another driving run as opposed to the three-man overlap, in which full back Liam Crank supported him brilliantly, to pick up and put down next to the posts. Setting up a simple conversion for Luke Berry.
Ashton really started to play now. Some great open, attacking play lead to more pressure and one of Hope Valley’s players crumbling and receiving a yellow card. The fantastic Ash Khan added a second to his tally by again running hard and grounding the ball. The subsequent conversion was rushed and missed by Luke Berry and the score sat at 27-31
The ref called for final play and Ashton knew what they had to do. A misplaced kick went straight down the middle to Damon Wong who passed to Max Weatherhead to set the wheels in motion. The backs took over and had some superb running and handling skills.
It took a moment of quick genius for Damon Wong to spot the gap behind the rook. The fast paced scrumhalf exploited the space and dropped down between the posts. The surrounding supporting players embracing Damo as he stood to his feet.
It was a hard fought come back for Ashton with Hope Valley a constant threat throughout the game. The visitors turned up from the off and luckily Ashton on Mersey woke up before it was too late. The mentality of the players is something to admire, never giving up and working for each other that resulted in a savouring win.
Special mention to Max ‘Dragon’ Weatherhead who has been a fantastic fly-half for Ashton and also to his southern mates for drinking us clean out of Guinness.
Man of the Match: Tom O’Driscoll & Dan Hopwood
Dick of the Day: Ben Smith, Max Weatherhead and Keith Orbell
Written by Dan Hopwood (Player)