Match Report: Vale of Lune 27 Burnage 8
A last minute decision on the state of the pitch allowed this rescheduled NW2 fixture to take place. 'Not frozen just cold,' was the verdict, and play could commence.
Burnage, 10 league points and three league places above the Vale, came to Powder House Lane on the back of two wins, whilst the Vale had not won since November.
Watching from the stand were injury listed: Fellows, Briggs, Bradshaw, Jacques, Mount and Branford. Without them, the Vale were undoubtedly the underdogs, but rugby is always ready to bring surprises.
The sky was grey but the referee was in blue and Burnage were in black and yellow. The Vale brought some colour of their own. It came in their confident, composed and committed display.
Oozing positivity from the first whistle, the Vale meant business. Burnage were overpowered and opportunities to live up to their recent form were rare indeed.
The first surprise came from a fired-up Vale back division. A poor clearance kick from Burnage failed to find touch and a rapid response from Chris Ramwell and Damon Hall allowed winger Harrison Dodge to score in the right corner.
Burnage replied with a penalty kick but the Vale's concerted efforts soon put clear daylight between the scores. A driving maul demonstrated the cohesion of the Vale's forwards to the delight of the home crowd. Prop Ross Pillow finished the move with a try to lift the spirits of the perished onlookers.
Centre Isaac Quarry sustained a knock and left the field to make way for Dan Leighton. A promising cross-field kick from Damon Hall gave Jordan Fern a chance to chase for the try line. He was denied by the narrowest margin, but the emphasis was clear - the Vale were firing on all cylinders. Half time came with the Vale ahead by 12 points to 3.
Recent performances have seen a lull in the Vale's output following the break. This had been addressed in training and there was no such dip in energy this time.
Jordan Fern's persistence paid off with a try in the left corner and Damon Hall added to the tally with a penalty kick from 45 yards. The Burnage reply came from Vale old boy, James Hodder, who finished a 90-yard move despite the heroic efforts of Jack Ayrton chasing back to defend.
Harrison Dodge succumbed to a hamstring problem and limped off. Reorganisation followed, with Richard Chadwick moving to full back. There was no let-up in the Vale's grip on the game. The final score came from Damon Hall who outran the Burnage defences to reach the chipped ball in the dead-ball area. Converting his own try, he passed the significant personal milestone of 1,000 points for the Vale.
This win brings five NW2 league points, and sets up a grand contest next week away at Kirkby Lonsdale. It will be interesting to see how the Vale adjusts to the expectation of being pre-match favourites.
Team: J. Stevens, A. Powers, R. Pillow, I. Turton, A .Foxcroft, C. Hall, S. Wallbank, J. Ayrton (c), J. Batty, R. Chadwick, J. Fern, C. Ramwell, I. Quarry, H. Dodge, D. Hall. Reps: A. Fowler, G. Oyston, D. Leighton.