The Vale of Lune were defeated by Keswick in a warm-up game ahead of the new rugby union season.
Shrouded in the mountain mists of the northern Lake District, Keswick RUFC is one of the most picturesque settings on the Rugby map. If you like rain - it is positively heavenly.
Wet or dry, preseason fixtures have their own value. Whilst the result is not of particularly high importance, the opportunity for current, prospective and returning players to take to the field and show their skills before the season begins in earnest is priceless. Over the years, many previously unseen Vale players have been talent-spotted by selectors in an open forum. This can result in an elevation for some and the first team squad grows stronger as a result.
The match was preceded by a minute of silence to mark the passing of the Vale of Lune President, Paul Antcliffe. Twenty-five Vale players and 21 of their Keswick counterparts lined up to pay their respects along with supporters from both clubs. Once the fellow in blue sounded his whistle, the months of competitive inactivity were over. In the early clashes, new faces, Elliot Taylor and Harm Doktor made their presence felt in the forwards, whilst backs Lee Starkey and Finlay Swindlehurst each made a strong case for places in the first team squad.
Possession and territory changed many times and two similarly placed teams did a fine job of cancelling each other out. Spells of drizzle and sunshine impeded the flow and the greasy ball was fumbled over and over. Tackling was also rusty and chasing backwards to defend became the mission. Divided into quarters, the game produced no score until after the half way point.
It was Keswick who broke the deadlock with a hard earned try in the right corner, followed soon after with an identical method in the left corner. The response came from Vale's county prop James Bonia. Bursting from a ruck and taking two Keswick defenders with him, Bonia powered over the line to put the Vale on the scoreboard. Converted by scrum half Lee Starkey, the faithful sensed a resurgence and optimism was high. It was not to last.
An exchange of views brought some frustrations to the surface and Vale second row Joe Harrison was sent for a 10 minute think about things. A Keswick player also went to the bin, leaving both teams with 14 active participants. Through all of the experiments in player rotation, Keswick hit upon a winning formula, running in tries at a high rate of productivity in the last 10 minutes.
With many experienced Vale players unavailable, this performance cannot be seen as a portent for the forthcoming campaign. It can, however, show the strength and depth of the playing ranks, giving head coach Dan Williams a broad range of options in the months ahead. This includes returning players Isaac Quarry and Petar Alexov. The best performer on the day was nominated by the home side as Sam Peters. Names to watch out for in the near future include: Josh Mitton, Ike Eastwood and Archie Fowler.
Next week sees another preseason fixture, The Vale 1st team are entered in a tournament at Eccles RUFC. The event begins at 1pm. Coach leaves the vale at 10.30am.