Match Report: Winnington Park 23 - Vale of Lune 21.
After three weeks without a game, the Vale of Lune first XV were relishing a return to the field of play.
The damp Cheshire weather could not curtail their spirit and an atmosphere of focused commitment was evident during their preparation.
They faced a Winnington Park side, in two-tone blue, similarly placed in the NW2 league. With honours equal last season, it had the makings of a close one from the outset.
Selection issues required some adaptability, with Alex Briggs at scrum half and Johnny Silverwood filling the number 10 spot.
Once the 'fellow in yellow' sounded the advance, both sides made cautious sorties into the other's territory. Neither had the means to finish each attack and the scoreboard remained dormant for 33 minutes.
The deadlock was broken by a visionary cross-field kick from Damon Hall.
He launched the cannonball behind the Winnington defence and into the arms of winger Daniel Leighton.
He fended off the last WP player to score on the left corner. When the Cheshire men replied in the dying seconds of the first half, causing the referee to dive onto the grass to check the grounding, their kicker also missed the gap, leaving the half time score at 5 points to 5.
The second half brought a change of personnel. Assistant coach Richard Chadwick brought on Eddie Abdelghafar to replace the wounded Sam Peters. Matt Field and Archie Fowler also entered the fray. A penalty kick from Hall gave the lead back to the Vale, but WP soon took it off them with a well-worked try in the left corner.
A further three points to each side followed and the tit-for-tat scoring continued until Hall gave the resurgent Peters a dream pass on the right wing. He sprinted on and kicked into space for Hall to pick the pocket of the WP full back and claim the lead once more. Leighton left the field with a big headache and the Vale were forced to reorganise once again.
With eight minutes left on the clock, Ramwell found the space and the gears to dash twenty-five metres to put the Vale eight points ahead. It was time to put the wagons in a circle and protect their lead, but the WP resolve was too strong. A rolling maul, which seemed to go on for ever, gave the home side a forwards' try and, with the last move of the match, Vale's previously solid handling slipped away. The WP winger finished the match with another unconverted try.
A single bonus league point was scant consolation for the Vale when a probable four points had been in sight. Notable Vale performances came from stalwarts Damon Hall in the backs and Joe Wallbank for the forwards. Rather than rue the missed chances for additional points, encouragement can be gleaned from the invention and positivity on display. However, it is that ruthless quality required to hold on to a lead in the final passages of play which remains elusive.
Next week sees a home fixture against Whitchurch, kick off at 2.15pm. It could be said of this season's Vale performances 'The ingredients are all there, but the recipe needs work.'
Team: R. Pillow, D. Griffiths, J. Stevens, E. Davis-Taylor, J. Harrison, J. Ayrton, J. Wallbank, S. Walton, A. Briggs, J. Silverwood, D. Leighton, S. Peters, C. Ramwell, H. Dodge, D. Hall. Reps: A. Fowler, M. Field, E. Abdelghafar.