Match report: Vale of Lune 67 - 14 Liverpool St Helens
February came to Powder House Lane along with the optimism of bright sunshine. A win away last week and a facing team struggling at the foot of the table, made the Vale pre-match favourites. Avoiding a 'banana skin' was a must. Special guests for the pre-match hospitality were former England stars Nigel Heslop and Kevin Simms. This all added to the occasion, but the priorities for both sides were league points.
The Vale's lineup also included some old faces. Luke Kettlewell and Al Crookall turned out and performed as though they had never been away. Centre Alfie Bolton was also restored after a period of absence. From the whistle, the Vale showed their intent. Confident ball-carrying and accurate kicks into space by Damon Hall and Chris Ramwell tested the defensive capabilities of LSH. The flaws were identified and the subsequent advances were targeted accordingly.
The opening score went to winger Dan Leighton, following a break in midfield from Damon Hall. Soon after, Chris Ramwell chose his spot and kicked the ball into space in the LSH twenty-two metre area for Damon Hall to chase. Only one winner there. The magic formula of: alertness to opportunity, exploitation of open spaces and pure speed, was honed to splendid effect. More tries followed from Jordan Fern and Alfie Bolton.
It was all one-way traffic, until a chink in the Vale's defenses allowed the LSH pack to claim a converted try. Alfie Bolton struck back straight away to restore the natural flow. Score-keeper, Big Les contemplated sending out for more number cards as the try count rose at pace. The half-time score was forty points to seven.
The second half saw another surge in the LSH output. A series of phases of forward play set the visitors up for a second try. It brought a brief respite to the onslaught. The Vale's worst kept secret was deployed over and over again. Jack Ayrton's lineout possession, a swiftly formed maul steered by Andy Powers, and a composed drive to the line, became an irresistible force. The Vale pack were keen to show the full range of their skills. Out-sprinting the hapless defenders, Jack Ayrton and Al Crookall took their applause as they each crossed the try-line at the clubhouse end. The loudest response from the home supporters came as front row colossus Joe Stevens powered his way over from fifteen yards.
Eleven tries from six different scorers shows a team enjoying their rugby. From many worthy contenders, the Man of the Match went to hat-trick hero Alfie Bolton. Five league points puts the Vale into the top half of the NW2 table for the first time this season.
Next week sees a scheduled break with no first team game. The next NW2 fixture is at home to Winnington Park on February 17.
Team: G. Oyston, A. Powers, J. Stevens, L. Kettlewell, H. Fellows, C. Hall, S. Wallbank, J. Aryton (c), J. Batty, D. Hall, J. Fern, E. Abdelghafar, A. Bolton, D. Leighton, C. Ramwell. Reps: J. Harrison, J. Silverwood, A. Crookall (Jnr.)