Vale had lifted their supporters to the heights against Birkenhead Park last week but against Rochdale they dumped them like a discarded bus ticket to leave then scratching their heads on how such a thing could happen so quickly.
Vale were without Ben Dorrington, Alex Baines and Damon Hall but they still selected a squad with a quota of experienced players including Jonty Higgin who was making his 100th start and Billy Swarbrick his 50th.
On a calm, sunny afternoon with just the hint of a crosswind the Vale hit a positive note straight from the kick off.
Jack Ferguson went hurtling towards the line after a subtle break from Sam Wallbank but any error was punished by Rochdale who gave the Vale little breathing space and quickly took advantage of some rather aimless kicking.
When the Vale appeared to run out of ideas on how to breach a formidable Rochdale defence which grew in stature, the home side turned its attentions to carrying the game to the visitors. The pressure built on the Vale who were pegged back, they conceded the inevitable penalty in the 17th minute which full back Oli Coldman kicked.
Chris Ramwell launched an attack from his own half in the 20th minute, his side stepping run taking him deep into Rochdale territory, but the cavalry were slow to react and Rochdale were soon back skirmishing in Vale’s half.
In the 22nd minute the Vale found themselves overstretched, tackles were missed as space was created for scrum half Dom Serridge to dart over wide on the right for a try converted by Coldman.
As the half moved into the closing 10 minutes the Vale began to assert themselves, forwards and backs looked much sharper and aggressive, forcing Rochdale to retreat.
Three successive Vale five metre scrums failed to crack open Rochdale’s defence, penalties were popped into touch for line outs, Jonty Higgin and Tom Crookall almost broke through but Rochdale survived an anxious few minutes before the half-time whistle.
Rochdale began the second half by launching a sweeping counter attack that rocked the Vale back on their heels.
In the 47th minute Rochdale marched the Vale back in the build up their second unconverted try scored by stand-off James Duffy.
Fergus Owens made one of his stylish breaks but the ball flirted out of Fraser Spavin’s grasp, but the signs were there that the Vale were beginning to play with more cohesion and conviction.
Adam Foxcroft went off on one of his body battering runs, which according to the hard working lock, was a yard too far.
Eventually the Vale’s ambition paid off when skipper Dan Baines mauled his way over from close range for an unconverted try in the 59th minute to bring his side within 10 points.
Any thoughts that the Vale were going to produce a rabbit out of the proverbial hat evaporated in the 63rd minute when the Vale were sliced open when Rochdale hared down the left flank in a move that ended with prop Tom Callaghan collecting an unconverted try.
Vale continued to battle but with time running out the die was already cast.
A second penalty from Coldman in the 74th minute only further emphasised the disparity but Rochdale wanted more and they collected their try bonus point in the third minute of extra time when centre Dick West touched down in the corner.
On Saturday the Vale travel to Wilmslow who also suffered a surprise defeat over at Leigh in a rearranged fixture, fully aware that the Cheshire side will be formidable opponents on their own turf.