Match Report: Douglas IOM 27 Vale of Lune 13
In a brief hiatus between oddly-named storms, the Isle of Man hosted the Vale of Lune in sunshine befitting Springtime on the Med, albeit a bit colder.
Douglas, in maroon and yellow shirts, were sitting two places below the Vale in the NW2 league table and had not won this fixture for some time. They had, however, enjoyed a recent run of form and with home advantage, all possibilities were on.
The Vale selectors were unable to call upon some of their more experienced players due to the duration of the trip.
On paper, it should have been close and in the first half, it was.
The opening clashes showed a messy lack of coordination in the set scrums by both sides, and the backs' possession was limited as a result. Douglas held the Vale back in their own half for most of the initial quarter, but when a penalty was awarded to Vale, centre Chris Ramwell, sporting his new, black, scrum cap from Santa, fired it home from 40 yards.
Douglas' place kicker Luke Highland replied with an equaliser and the sequence repeated itself.
Whilst the sunny uplands of recovery brought the return of Andy Powers after an eight month layoff, those pesky, dark clouds of injury claimed hooker Matt Mount, who left the field nursing a crocked shoulder. Archie Fowler stepped up to maintain the forward campaign and sensible adjustments were made to the positions.
By the midpoint, there had been no tries and honours were even at six points to six.
The second half saw a surge in effort from the Manxmen. Their pack operated in unison and the pressure proved too much for the Vale to repel. Highland hit the spot with the conversion and the lead was held by the home side for the first time.
For the Vale, the ongoing challenge was to get out of their own half, but their forays into the Douglas defences were few and unproductive. The Douglas pack got over the line once more and their final score came amid calls from the travelling supporters for the crucial pass to the right winger on the Vale's 22 metre line to be deemed forward. The referee was having none of it.
The final, consolation effort of the match came from captain Jack Ayrton, flying solo from the back of a maul and taking the play to the Douglas try-line, or just short of it. It was near enough for the fellow in blue to award the try.
Whilst it was a long way to go for no league points. there were some positives to be taken. Debutante Travis Bell gave a good account of himself on the wing, lineout possession was reliable and the spin passing from scrum half Jack Batty was accurate and consistent. Next week sees the return of Firwood Waterloo to Powder House Lane. Hopefully, head coach Dan Williams will be able to call upon the full range of personnel and the Vale's league position can be maintained.
Team: J. Stevens, M. Mount, R. Pillow, H. Fellows, G. Oyston, A. Powers, S. Walton, J. Ayrton (c), J. Batty, J. Silverwood, J. Fern, C. Ramwell, E. Abdelghafar, T. Bell, H. Dodge. Reps: A. Fowler, J. Mitton, D. Rainford.