Match Report: Vale of Lune 63 - Whitchurch 5.
The Vale of Lune first XV took the setbacks of the past few results and turned them upside-down in a mere 80 minutes.
As the Autumn sun cast long shadows across the hallowed turf of Powder House Lane, the real energy was produced by a resurgent Vale side, who found their 2023/24 mojo against a Whitchurch XV positioned six places above the Vale in the NW2 league.
Pre-match Remembrance respects were observed by the crowd and both teams.
From the whistle, the Vale took control, and kept it. Joe Wallbank's safe hands in the first lineout set off a chain of passes which gave Damon Hall the space to score in the right corner.
Converting his own try, Hall put the first seven points on the board before Whitchurch had put a fingerprint on the ball.
Vale's scoreboard guru Big Les was kept busy, as the black jerseys of Whitchurch came back to roll a maul over for their opener. It was to be the only points they would register all day.
Clever interplay between Hall and Sam Peters left the visitors flat-footed, and with a steady stream of conversion kicks, the pattern was established. It was efficient as it was ruthless.
Tries from captain Jack Ayrton and winger Jordan Fern, marking his one hundredth Vale first team appearance, took the Vale to an impressive 28 points to 5 lead into the break.
The Vale faithful were poised to witness what might, as recent results have shown, to have been a second-half lapse, but no such dip in performance followed. Instead, the Vale raised their game to an inspiring and thoroughly exhilarating level. There was not a warm seat in the stand as the Vale lifted the home crowd to their tiptoes over and over again.
Chipping and chasing past the beleaguered Shropshire men, Hall made 60 yards to score his third, and when scrum-half Billy Swarbrick, marking his one-hundred-and-fiftieth first team appearance, sprinted over the final 25 metres to touch down, the result was beyond question.
The Vale forwards, imperious in rucks and mauls, further added to the scoresheet by the composed but energetic command of a midfield scrum, setting free flanker Sam Walton to cross the whitewash in style. Chris Ramwell claimed the eighth from a backpedaling Whitchurch defence, and Hall finished the display with another converted try at a canter.
Notable showings were many, and all players, as well as head coach Dan Williams, deserve credit for a brilliant team performance. The cream of the backs was Damon Hall with a personal tally of four tries and nine conversions, second-row forward Joe Harrison punched more holes in the Whitchurch defences than one may expect to find in a Swiss cheese, and the half-back pairing of Swarbrick and Silverwood was the glue that joined it all up.
It was a day to remember for the Vale of Lune and it came at a time when it was so desperately needed and hugely appreciated. Five league points take the Vale out of harm's way in the table, but what has greater value, is the confidence they can take into the away fixture at Altrincham Kersal next Saturday.
Team: R. Pillow, D. Griffiths, J. Stevens, M. Field, J. Harrison, S. Walton, J. Wallbank, J. Ayrton (c),B. Swarbrick, J. Silverwood, J. Fern, C. Ramwell, S. Peters, F. Swindlehurst, D. Hall. Reps: A. Briggs, E. Abdelghafar, O. Branford.