Match Report: Kirkby Lonsdale 13-20 Vale of Lune
The biggest crowd of the season, boosted by a full coach of away supporters, witnessed this NW2 clash of near neighbours. Once again, the winter's bite relented to allow the rugby to take place and, when old rivalries were suitably prioritised, the quest to avoid the relegation spots became the main issue.
The Vale's injury list read like a fantasy rugby game with fifteen of the first team squad unavailable. Nevertheless, Vale's players are always ready to step up when needed. Second row Adam Foxcroft made his one hundredth first team appearance, as determined and energetic as he had been on his first.
Early action took place solely in the Kirkby half. Vale forward pressure put the home side in siege mode and their defensive campaign was reminiscent of 'Rourke's Drift', with the Vale playing the Zulus' part. That dominance in both territory and possession, brought scant results, with only two Damon Hall penalties and no tries. Half time arrived with the score at six - nil to the Vale.
The second half saw Kirkby make incursions onto the Vale's turf. Initially, the Vale were able to repel the threat, but it was a 'wake-up' call. The turning point came from a Kirkby clearance kick which fell to winger Dan Leighton to deal with on the half way line. The ball bounced awkwardly off his chest and into the arms of his opposite number, who sprinted through to score in the left corner. The try went unconverted, as did their next strike in the right corner soon after.
The Vale had conceded the lead and a sense of trepidation arose among the travelling faithful. Cometh the hour, it was Dan Leighton who showed admirable resolve in putting his earlier blip behind him and playing out of his skin in both attack and defence. A heroic, forty-yard dash through the Kirkby defensive lines energised the crowd as well as his peers. The pressure was all on Kirkby, with Andy Powers expertly marshalling rolling mauls from Jack Ayrton lineout ball, and forcing Kirkby to concede repeated penalties in their own twenty-two metre area. Inevitably, attempts to impede the mauls resulted in a yellow card for a Kirkby player, soon followed by another.
The two-man advantage, late in the game was too good an opportunity to miss. Sharp, cross-field passing exposed the numerical difference and Jordan Fern went over to reclaim the lead. Damon Hall spotted another gap and had the the gears to get through it to score on the right. With both tries converted by Hall, the win, and the precious four points, were safe. Kirkby shrewdly opted to kick their last penalty, bringing them within seven points of the Vale, and a bonus league point.
Nominated by his coach and teammates, Dan Leighton was dubbed 'Man of the Match.' His refusal to allow a setback to get to him was evident in his 'Olympic' efforts thereafter. Oh, how people do so love a redemption story. As Kirkby Lonsdale regroup to fight on for league survival, the Vale sit, mid-table, on a healthy 37 points, and are to face bottom-of-the-table Liverpool St Helens at home next Saturday.
Team: R. Pillow, A. Powers, J. Stevens, I. Turton, A. Foxcroft, C. Hall, S. Wallbank, J. Aryton (c), J. Batty, R. Chadwick, J. Fern, E. Abdelghafar, C. Ramwell, D. Leighton, D. Hall.
Reps: A. Fowler, G. Oyston, H. Fellows