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No big finish for Vale of Lune in final match of season

Match Report: Rochdale 24 Vale of Lune 5

Through light showers and warm sunshine, the Vale of Lune 1st XV coach arrived at Moorside Road for this rescheduled fixture, the final NW2 match of the 22/23 season.

Having beaten Rochdale RUFC in the autumn, they had every reason for optimism.

However, more injury woes dogged Head Coach Rob Quarry. Thankfully, the Vale has strength and depth in its player base. This creates opportunities for new talent and more debut performances. 

In the opening exchanges, the Vale's forward pack gelled more effectively than that of the home team. Adopting a rolling maul technique, they gained ground whilst keeping possession in the Rochdale twenty-two metre area.

Marshalled by captain Andy Powers, they edged into striking range where Number Eight Jack Ayrton emerged with the ball to touchdown in the right corner for the opening try after 14 minutes. Without his trademark blue cap, Chris Ramwell attempted the conversion but it fell short of the posts. Was that down to the missing cap? He didn't say. 

The form book would suggest that the Vale were underdogs, but they played with confidence and belief. The set scrums were their domain, yet the unsuccessful appeals for penalties for Rochdale's defensive collapsing of the scrums turned a strength to a source of frustration. The Vale kept their manners and discipline, but territory and points were not forthcoming.

Rochdale gathered their faculties and took the fight into the Vale's 22. Dogged defending held off the threat, but only temporarily. Rochdale found the chinks in the Vale's armour and exploited them. Two tries before half time turned the tide and the accurate conversion kicks added to the Vale's problems.

The Vale made use of their young replacements. Freddie Bartle showed his work ethic following his debut last week, and 18 year old Sam Waters, selected this week for Lancashire U.20s, made his presence felt in the front row. 

Vale second row forward George Oyston tackled a Rochdale player convincingly, but the man landed on his upper back. This was deemed by the referee to be a transgression of safety laws. Oyston saw yellow and headed off to contemplate his actions. This also resulted in a penalty in front of the posts. The Rochdale kicker added another three points to their tally. Down to fourteen players, the Vale clung on but all hope of a point left as Rochdale's third try went over.    

Vale can reflect on a season of highs and lows. The injury situation had proved challenging and the established campaigners, as adaptable as they are committed, have again put in individual performances worthy of commendation. A glimpse of the star players of the future has also been most encouraging for the Vale's supporters. A mid-table finish means that many of this year's opponents will face the Vale again from September onwards. 

The Vale are in the mix for a short cup competition to take place in April. No definite dates are available as yet, but it is hoped that there will be more rugby union action at Powder House Lane before the season ends.

Team:   J. Bonia, M. Mount, J. Stevens, L. Evans, G. Oyston, A. Powers(C,) S. Field, J. Ayrton, B. Swarbrick, O. Jacques, J. Fern, C. Ramwell, S. Peters, J. Wills, H. Dodge.   Reps: S. Waters, F. Bartle. 

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