Match Report: Crewe & Nantwich 27 - Vale of Lune 17.
Picturesque rural Cheshire was the destination for a changed Vale squad.
On arrival it was clear that the home venue had changed too.
Cricket, hockey and a biker festival all brought the energy. Once the pitch was located, a thorough skills session took place before the game in an attempt to break the cycle of results so far this season. Training to an amplified AC/DC track might be a tactic for the future.
Player availability remained a difficult issue, so the Vale fielded five debutants in their lineup. Several regulars were playing out of position too.
Harrison Dodge showed his versatility at scrum half, whilst Chris Ramwell took the number 10 shirt. C&N came to this fixture as league leaders with maximum points amassed, but the Vale new boys were far from unseated by this form.
An unconverted C&N try which stretched the Vale defence was soon countered by a Chris Ramwell penalty kick. In a bizarre clash of body parts, two Vale players left the field to nurse injuries. On came George Oyston and Joe Harrison to bolster the forward campaign. The half time score was 5-3 to the Cheshire men and all possibilities remained open.
Harrison made his mark soon after the restart. He powered through multiple tackle attempts to cross the line for a Vale lead. This shook both teams into action and the exchanges became more competitive than before.
Tight forward play became the topic of focus for the referee, who repeatedly penalised the Vale for impeding play. After a collapsed scrum, prop Joe Stevens was sent to the 'naughty step' for 10 minutes.
C&N made the most of this advantage by claiming back the lead with a pushover try. A C&N penalty try followed, and second row Adam Foxcroft was deemed to have collapsed a maul illegally. Foxcroft went to the bin soon after Stevens completed his penance. The Vale could have been forgiven for thinking the game was out of reach, but they did not allow such thoughts to fester.
Instead, the Vale applied concerted forward effort, forcing the errors and gaining a penalty try of their own. The conversion put the Vale within one score of the home team, but as the final whilst approached, C&N hammered home the final penalty kick to deny the Vale the bonus league point for a close losing score.
Notable performances were delivered by the debut players: Daniel Leighton, Eddie Abdelghafar, Josh Mitton, Archie Fowler and Conor Kyriakou. Each made a strong case for future first team selection. Notable too was the highly mobile, back row combination of Sam Walton and Matt Field.
Head coach Dan Williams said of his players: "I was super proud of the boys today.
"Man to man they grafted, problem solved and applied what we’ve done after at training. Crewe were organised and structured with a strong scrum but we never felt out of the game. What’s clear is that we have some unbelievable talent in this squad and working with them to unlock their potential as teams is a real pleasure.I look forward to seeing the boys grow again as we go after stuff at training this week."
Next Saturday brings Douglas I.O.M back to Powder House Lane for an earlier kick-off time of 12.30pm.
Team: O. Branford, H, Dokter, J. Stevens, A. Foxcroft, D. Griffiths, Matt Field, S. Walton, J. Ayrton, H. Dodge, C. Ramwell, J. Mitton, E. Abdelghafar, R. Allwood, D. Leighton, C. Kyriakou. Reps: G. Oyston, J. Harrison, A. Fowler.