By Stuart Vernon | Monday 19th March 2012
England's victory took away some of the anguish felt by the Vale after a super game of rugby at The Lane.
Since its inception nearly ten seasons ago, the North West Intermediate Rugby Union League has revolutionised rugby for many clubs at second, third, fourth fifth, and sometimes sixth team levels, because in truth the old system was coming close to collapse mainly due to an unacceptable number of cancelled games which in turn was causing frustrated players and officials to leave the code and find other pursuits.
Innovation has always been a bye word for the new structure and following concerns about the huge differential that appeared in the Bateman BMW Premier League after the mid way point of the season it was agreed to change the format to a conference system for the second part of the season.
This system has produced a highly competitive set up which has been reflected by the Vale of Lune’s A team’s results since they began life in Conference B. They recorded two victories from their opening three games but towards the end of February they lost away at Penrith and Liverpool St Helens and into the relegation zone. Two victories at home against Altrincham Kersal and away at Broughton Park moved them back into second place behind undefeated Burnage 2.
This fixture fully lived up to its pre match billing, a game of high drama, unexpected twists and turns, blink and you missed something, and played at a cracking pace, with the visitor’s talented side contributing to a splendid competitive game.
Unlike a pan of water that is slow to come to the boil this was hissing and bubbling from the first minutes and ended with the pressure gauge edging into the red zone.
The signs were there during the final quarter that the heat was being turned up but the boilers required some extra stoking because ten nail biting minutes of overtime were tacked on, and this is where the eventual outcome of the game was decided.
On the hour mark Burnage scored an unconverted try to reduce the Vale’s lead to two points, the score standing at 29-27. With five minutes of proper time remaining, a well worked line out ended with the lurking Andy Powers touching down for a try which Tom Carter converted from wide out on the right.
In the eightieth minute prolonged pressure inside Vale’s twenty two took its toll and although they successfully heaved Burnage back the visitors were able to scramble the ball away from the heavy traffic. A swift passing movement to the left stretched the Vale, an overlap was created for a well taken try, the conversion hit an upright but failed to go over.
As the game moved into a substantial slice of injury time due to a Burnage player requiring lengthy treatment in the sixty fifth minute, the tension became unbearable. Burnage needed to post a try for victory and with Damon Hall in the sin bin their collective task was made just that little bit easier.
The Sword Of Damocles fell on the Vale in the eighty ninth minute when following a five metre line out the Burnage forwards hugged the ball and patiently inched forward until an opening appeared. Eventually a surge down the blind side ended with an unconverted try, high fives all round for Burnage, drooped shoulders for the Vale.
But this riveting game refused to go quietly into the sunset because straight from the restart full back Jamie Antcliffe caught the ball in full stride. For one moment it looked as though the Vale would catch the visitor’s napping but Burnage regrouped and at the first breakdown lashed the ball into touch to maintain their unbeaten record in Conference B but it was too close for comfort.
Vale fell behind to a fourth minute converted try after a promising opening but three minutes later the home side levelled with a try from James Hodder who went sprinting away after he had collected a flicked pass from Andy Powers, Tom Carter converted.
The Vale went further ahead in the twelfth minute when following a concerted forward drive the ball was moved along the back, Jamie Antcliffe was tackled but a Burnage player held on and the Vale were rewarded with a penalty which was immediately popped into touch. From the line out one of the Vale’s emerging young players, Harry Fellows was driven over for a try converted by Tom Carter from wide out on the left.
A long range Burnage penalty was answered with a Vale try after twenty minutes. James Hodder made a lightning break; Tom Carter delivered a quick pass to Damon Hall, who had been calling for the ball from the moment the move began. The winger backed himself to score and he confidently sprinted over for an unconverted try.
Ten minutes later Burnage’s pack thundered over for a try which was converted with a superb kick from wide out on the left and when a three man overlap was created Burnage went into the lead with an unconverted try.
The half ended in the fifth minute of injury time when following a determined run from Alex Morrison the Vale were awarded a scum and from the base Issac Turton calmly picked up for his try converted by Tom Carter.
Eleven minutes into the second half, James Hodder made a break, Rob Ward cut back inside, and enterprising Vale attacked ended with Tom Carter kicking a penalty goal. Burnage’s replacement winger raced over for an unconverted try on the hour mark to leave the outcome precariously poised.
The suspense began to build. Vale’s pack won a scrum against the head, James Hodder beetled away but the final pass went astray. Rob Ward made a determined run, the Vale scrummage gained the upper hand, Burnage had a player sent to the sin bin and Tom Carter missed with a penalty attempt in the seventieth minute.
Slowly the gamed edged towards its gripping climax that was to leave players and spectators physically and mental drained.
For the second time in three weeks I have had the pleasurable experience of watching Vale sides in action in two cracking games of rugby that were not lacking in commitment and skill.
Looking at the faces of the Vale players in the clubhouse after the Burnage game told its own story; the players had given their all but to lose by a single point had been difficult to come to terms with. What would have happened if that kick had gone over? Did I pass too early? Was a tackle by me missed? They were quite simply out on their feet.
Sandbach 2 v Rossendale 2
See below photo of the Sandbach celebration after winning the Division 1 title and being promoted to the Premier League
The Raging Bull NW Leagues Cheshire Cakes Div 2 South Whitchurch 2nd XV 31 pts v 34 pts Broughton Park 3rd XV
An ecstatic Alan Marsland reports !!!!
2013-04-06 The Raging Bull NW Leagues Div. 4 North Wigan 3rd XV 36pts v 19 pts Vale of Lune 4th XV
A much tighter game than the score might suggest !!!
Some great pictures once again from Vales' Chief Phtographer Tony North !!
After losing 133 pts to Nil in recent game Vale keep the score in this, the only game today in the Leagues to only 96 pts.
Quote of the day " Steven Briggs Vale's scrum half - What was the score today Ref ?? Ref Shaun Mcglue " 96 pts to 3 pts !! Feels like a win Sir today !!! Thanks for a good game .
Vale come up against an efficient Wilmslow side !!!
Pictures by David Pyke Wilmslow !!!
(Vale of Lune 2)