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Report: Winnington Park 42 Vale of Lune 36

Vale of Lune in action earlier in the season. Photo by Tony North.

It was close but the Vale of Lune couldn't quite gain the win in a see-saw battle against Winnington Park.

Confidence was high as the Vale of Lune first XV travelled to mid-Cheshire with the aim of extending their three match winning streak in NW2.

Despite the clouds and drizzle, and recalling the thumping that they had given to the Cheshire team at Powder House Lane back in the autumn, there was every reason for optimism. 

Early gains were claimed by the home side. The Winnington forwards asserted themselves even before the echoes of the ref's initial whistle had faded.

The blue-and-white surge resulted in a penalty kick and a three point lead. This woke the beast within.

The Vale remembered who they were, and what they were capable of. Relentless Vale pressure ensued.

Superiority in the scrums and a steady flow of lineout possession created an opening for co-captain Andy Powers to score between the posts. The conversion, slotted home by full back Damon Hall, stretched the lead, and the battle lines were drawn. 

Winnington came back again with a sustained advance down their right flank. A chip-and-chase move brought a one-on-one foot chase for the line. Vale centre Olly Jacques clashed with the Winnington man who went to ground.

The referee saw this differently to how the Vale players and supporters had seen it. Jacques was deemed to have impeded the chasing player and, having awarded the home side a penalty try, the ref added to the Vale's woes by sending Jacques to the bin for ten minutes of compulsory inactivity.

Undaunted, a sharp phase of nifty Vale passing put the play deep into the Winnington half once more. In a clumsy attempt to clear their lines by running the ball out wide, Vale number eight Jack Ayrton intercepted and sprinted down the sideline, outstripping the defence to score in the left corner. 

A clash of heads took scrum half Ben Walker to sick-bay and, as happens when a key playmaker is sidelined, a difficult reshuffle followed.

Damon Hall stepped up to the plate, and Harrison Dodge joined the party on the wing. Prop James Bonia came on and soon made his mark. A front-row try is a rarity indeed, but Bonia is that rare player who will not comply with such custom.

The Vale reached half-time with a 17-22 lead. 

The second half began as the first half had. Winnington Park found the resolve to press the Vale to good effect. Some questionable tackling allowed the Cheshire set to equalise in the right corner. Jacques, restored to the field of play, answered swiftly with a try of his own, dashing 15 metres to the line, leaving the home side in his wake. Jordan Fern produced a similar result and the Vale were ahead by 14 points. 

Winnington Park were having none of it. They dug deep and found their mojo. Running in three tries in the last 12 minutes, they set the home support alight with excitement.

A double yellow carding for Harry Fellows, and the bloke he had been brawling with, made little difference. A final penalty kick put the cherry on the cake for Winnington. 

In a game where the lead changed seven times, any neutral soul present would have had cause for celebration at such a splendidly contested game of rugby. For those committed to either of these determined bodies of sportsmen, it was a roller-coaster of an afternoon.

The spoils went to Winnington, whose combined never-say-die mentality ultimately proved triumphant. 

Next week sees the rescheduled game away at Broughton Park. The Vale  will approach this undeniably aware that previous form counts for little in NW2.

Team:   M. Bradshaw, O. Branford, J. Stevens, H. Fellows, J. Harrison, A. Powers, J. Ayrton, A. Bolton, B. Walker, H. Chadwick, J. Fern, O. Jacques, C. Ramwell, S. Peters, D. Hall.   Reps: J. Bonia, L. Evans, H. Dodge. 

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