Despite a second half fightback, Meden Vale lost their NLD Junior Cup clash at Long Eaton 29-21.
Vale had virtually a full strength team available for this encounter with a team who are flying high in the league above.
The first half exchanges were an even affair until Vale lost one of their line outs on half way and Long Eaton showed power and panache to run in the first score.
Vale had a chance to immediately reduce the seven-point deficit with a penalty on the Long Eaton 22, but the attempt just drifted wide.
Long Eaton started to exert more pressure on Vale and the second score, duly converted, wasn’t long in coming.
Vale were struggling to come to terms with the first autumnal conditions of the season and the wide pitch which Long Eaton used to full advantage to run in two more unconverted scores and lead 24-0 at half-time.
Things weren’t going the way Vale had hoped and some changes were made at half-time to try to utilise the conditions and a provide a little more organisation in the back division.
The team responded magnificently with Tommy Key playing a leading role in the fightback.
Ricky Geeson was using his boot with a game sense which belied his rugby inexperience and Danny Davies was always available to carry the ball.
Inevitably the Vale pressure was rewarded with Willy Murphy crashing over from short range and Ricky Geeson converted.
Lewis Gregory was making an impact at centre with his powerful runs and Matt Thom and Zac Palmer were ensuring quick ball and disrupting their opponents’ possession.
Vale won a line out on the Long Eaton and again Murphy piledrove his way over, again converted by Geeson to make it 24-14 and Long Eaton now realised they were in a game.
A front row injury to Callum Murphy, saw a hastily reshuffled pack, but this did nothing to diminish the Vale scrum and Long Eaton were going backwards.
Another spell of sustained pressure and a slick pass to Murphy saw him complete his hat-trick.
Vale were sensing victory and camped out in the Long Eaton half, but a fluke breakaway allowed Long Eaton to score with the last play to round off a rather uncomfortable victory.
Vale proved in the first half why they are in their current league but proved in the second half they can comfortably mix it in a higher league.
They need to have confidence in their ability, of which there is plenty and remember that giving any team a 24-point start, especially one from a higher league, is not the ideal format to win rugby matches.