Match report: Vale of Lune 15 – 15 Crewe & Nantwich
An upturn in the weather allowed first team action to return to Powder House Lane for the first time in five weeks.
A home crowd eagerly awaited the return fixture against Crewe & Nantwich, sitting four places above the Vale in the NW2 league table. Perhaps, they hoped, the deficit could be addressed and parity restored.
Early rumbles tested each team's defences without any evident threat. It was fifteen minutes in when full back Damon Hall made the all-important break to put winger Jordan Fern in for a try in the left corner.
A missed conversion was soon followed by a penalty kick which did find the gap, extending the Vale's lead. However, C&N were not lying third in the league for nothing. They pressed forward and held territory. Their composure was rewarded with a try to the left of the posts. The additional two points went begging and the half time whistle saw a thin lead to the Vale of 8 points to 5.
Player perestroika followed, bringing George Oyston on in the second row, Matt Mount at prop and Hayden Mills onto the left wing. Damon Hall's long clearance kicks gave Dodge and Mills several chances to hit top speed in the chase., but C&N were well positioned to cancel out that tactic. Flankers Sam Walton and Callum Hall excelled in the fight for any unclaimed ball. and seemed to be everywhere the ball was.
The Vale forfeited some promising phases by some clumsy fingertip contact on the ball in crucial positions. Thankfully, C&N were no better in their gathering of the loose ball. When the Vale did put a series of phases of possession, it gained them sufficient ground to allow Damon Hall's outstretched hand over the try-line to score. He kicked the conversion cleanly and the Vale stretched their lead to ten points.
So many times this season, the Vale have been unable to hold on to a hard-earned lead in the last quarter. C&N raised their output and they earned a breaking dash down the right flank. Attempts at tackles fell short and desperate measures were called for. Unfortunately for the Vale, the fellow-in-yellow deemed one such effort to be a deliberate trip. A matching yellow card was produced and shown to Damon Hall.
The visitors from Cheshire made the most of their numerical advantage. They ran in two tries, but their place kicker continued with his off-day and both went unconverted. The last six minutes were more frantic than purposeful and the honours were even at the close.
For the second time at home this season, The Vale had to settle for a draw. Notable performances were attributed to hooker Owen Branford and centre Eddie Abdelghafar. The two league points for each team changes little in the NW2 story for this season. The players now have three weeks to reflect and prepare for the away fixture in Douglas I.O.M. on the 6th of January.
Team: R. Pillow, O. Branford, J. Stevens, J. Wallbank, H. Fellows, S. Walton, C. Hall, J.Ayrton(c), B. Swarbrick, J. Silverwood, J. Fern, E. Abdelghafar, R. Chadwick H. Dodge, D. Hall.
Reps: G.Oyston, M.Mount, H.Mills.