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Vale of Lune earn late win at Waterloo

Owen Brandford

Match Report: Firwood Waterloo 8  Vale of Lune 11.

Leaving the Lancaster rain behind, the Vale of Lune arrived on Merseyside in squint-inducing sunshine. On board the coach were the first and second teams, both eager to return to the field after a five-week long, mid-season hiatus. 

Before the game, the reshaped first team voluntarily reduced their player options by foregoing potential replacements in order for the second team to field a side.

They were acutely aware that they faced a team that not only sat three places higher int the NW2 league, but had beaten the Vale at home earlier this season.

Undeterred, the underdogs found the resolve and motivation to disregard the form book from the outset. They held the majority of the possession, but a combination of dogged Waterloo defending and some Vale ball-handling errors impeded their route onto the scoreboard. 

Scrummaging was entirely the domain of the Vale of Lune. Despite evident weight disadvantages, the Vale front row of Matt Mount, Owen Branford and Joe Stevens showed superior technique to control every exchange.

Probing excursions by Jack Ayrton and Damon Hall showed promise, but it was the home side who claimed the first points with a penalty kick after 18 minutes.

Isaac Quarry found gaps in the Waterloo defence but with out any ultimate reward. Instead, and against the run of play, the Waterloo No. 12 jinked through the Vale back line to register the game's first try. The conversion went astray and the half-time score was 8 - 0 to the Merseyside men. 

Floodlights illuminated the pitch as thick clouds came overhead. The ambient temperature dropped, but so did the Waterloo output. The Vale stopped fumbling the ball at crucial times and asserted their advantage to good effect. The referee, sporting a fetching shade of shocking pink, penalised the home side for transgressions, forced by relentless Vale pressure. Damon Hall took on place-kicking duties and found the uprights with a penalty.

Stand-off Jonny Silverwood succumbed to an earlier ankle injury so player/coach Henry Chadwick entered the fray. Hall looked certain to cross the line but the ball escaped his extended grip. However, when his second penalty chance was presented, he took it cleanly to take the Vale within two points of Waterloo.

The travelling supporters felt it, as did the home crowd, but more importantly, the Vale players sensed that the game was within their grasp. They stepped up their work-rate and the tired, heavyweight, Waterloo pack could not contain them. Phases of possession followed in an uninterrupted sequence as the seconds ticked toward the final whistle.

The reward came in the form of a Jordan Fern try in the dying moments of the match. The conversion went wide, but it did not matter. It was no classic, but for sheer determination and positivity, the Vale deserved the victory and the celebrations that followed. 

Identifying a Man of the Match was difficult. All individual performances were commendable but the Vale front-row stood out for their cohesive and constant dominance in the scrums, rucks and mauls. Of this trio, it was hooker Owen Branford who emerged as the top player on the day. 

Next week sees first team rugby return to Powder House Lane as the Vale play host to Glossop. Kick off will be at 2.15pm. They will no doubt approach this challenge with high spirits and well-deserved confidence. A team in this collective mindset should be a treat to watch. 

Team:    M. Mount, O. Branford, J. Stevens, T. Nicholson, J. Harrison, A. Powers, J. Ayrton, A. Bolton, B. Swarbrick, J. Silverwood, J. Fern, I. Quarry, O. Jacques, D. Hall, B. Walker.   Rep: H. Chadwick. 

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