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Vale A pipped at the post by Preston Grasshoppers 3rds

Match Report: Vale of Lune A 16 Preston Grasshoppers 3rds 18

As waterlogged pitches appeared across the country, the facilities at Powder House Lane proved to be above such challenges.

With the first XV away match postponed, it fell to the second string to maintain normal service for the Vale's hungry supporters.

The A team match was the first of three pool games in the NOWIRUL Cotton Traders Jug competition and the aim for both sides was to make a convincing start on the road to the knock-out stage. 

The referee, in a fetching shade of dayglo tangerine, had a relatively easy time in the first quarter.

With each side appearing unwilling to take risks in their endeavours, the crowd were willing something to happen.

When Vale number eight Eddie Abdelghafar found himself in possession on the left touchline, he turned on the turbo and burned past three credible attempts at a tackle.

He made 50 yards before being caught only 10 strides from the Preston line.

This served as a warning and the subsequent passages of play were largely under Vale control.

This was undeniably inhibited by a high tackle, perpetrated by centre Henry Connolly, which took him off to the cooler for 10 minutes. 

The resultant penalty allowed Preston to register the first three points.

Undeterred, the Vale forwards claimed the territory and kept up the pressure.

The reward was a try in the left corner from prop James Hesketh.

There followed a series of big, crunching tackles from each pack of forwards. It was Preston who inched toward the Vale try line with admirable patience and control. Their first try came just before half time setting the scoreboard at 5 - 8 to the visitors. 

The second half began with renewed purpose as utility forward Joe Wallbank entered the arena. An over-enthusiastic Preston tackle gave a penalty opportunity for the boot of scrum-half Lee Starkey to level the score from 30 yards.

The advantage was soon reclaimed by Preston with a penalty kick of their own, but Starkey soon added another to restore equality. 

A Preston yellow card presented a chance to upset the balance.

Quick-thinking flanker Dom Griffiths, made the hard yards from set pieces over and over again and Hesketh battered the Preston defence into retreat.

That sustained forward pressure gave winger Ben Dobson his opening in the right corner. The touchdown was doubtful, but the man with the whistle decided it was acceptable and the Vale took the lead once more.   

As the seconds ticked by, Preston found another gear and took the fight to the Vale 22m area. An overlap on their right flank was exploited with gratitude and the visitors' second try brought the scores level at full time. The contest hung on the composure of the Preston place kicker. His conversion kick found the gap and the spoils went to the Grasshoppers.  

The next Vale fixtures in this competition will be against teams from Kendal and Rochdale. The dates are yet to be announced. 

 

Team:   G. Oyston, M. Davenport, J. Hesketh, J. Mitton, B. Keenan, M. Fenol, D. Griffiths, E. Abdelghafar, L. Starkey, J. Silverwood, J. Wills, H. Connolly, J. Antcliffe, F. Swindlehurst, S. Manning.     Reps:  D. Ryan, L. Trowse, B. Dobson. J. Wallbank. 

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