Vale of Lune got their season back on track with this gutsy and deserved victory at Carlisle on Saturday.
The win means Vale leapfrogged their Cumbrian rivals into third place with a game in hand over Sale and Liverpool St Helens, the two clubs ahead of them in the title race.
Vale’s victory was all the more remarkable considering they played most of the game with only 14 men after young Harry Fellows was red carded minutes before the interval.
Just why he was dismissed was a matter of some conjecture for spectators, but later it was revealed the youngster was alleged to have kicked an opponent on the ground.
The sending off of this likeable and gentle giant came as a shock and certainly sparked some life into Vale who hitherto had been a little subdued despite scoring two tries.
If the Vale showed plenty of character in their victory, Carlisle contributed to a good game clearly showing why they themselves deserved to be in third place before Saturday’s encounter.
But Carlisle lacked any real attacking edge and the running behind the pack was one-paced and one-dimensional.
Vale, on the other hand always excited when the ball was to hand. But in the end it took a little extra Vale magic to transform the situation and it was young Jordan Dorrington playing at scrum-half who produced it in the 14th minute.
Without any real build up, he suddenly appeared ball in hand, skipped his way through a ponderous defence and created the easiest of tries for James Hodder who, in the absence of Jimmy Moore, also added the conversion.
All of a sudden the game came alive and Carlisle looked shaken.
Their forwards continued to try and batter their way through the Vale ranks, but the defence stood firm and the line was rarely threatened.
Vale though, found a way to allow their hosts back into the game, gifting them points through silly penalties.
And with the league’s leading penalty kicker, the impressive Glen Weightman in their ranks, Carlisle hit back in the 18th minute when the stand-off slotted over a kick.
Vale fought straight back as their forwards came back into the game. They powered their way towards the opposition line and with so many Cumbrians committed to defence, quick Vale ball released the strong running Andy Powers in for a try near the posts which Hodder converted.
But Weightman was on target with two more penalties as Cumbrian referee Martin Denvir punished Vale for a number of questionable offences.
And then he punished them further when he singled out second row Fellows for a red card after the forwards clashed near to the Carlisle line.
That was to be a real turning point because after a half-time breather, Vale stormed out of the blocks and dominated the second half.
They were inspired by a delightful performance from Darren Wilson playing out of position at stand-off. He chose to run the ball at every opportunity, proving a real handful and bringing the very best out of the youngsters around him.
It was one of those youngsters Sam Wallbank who put the seal on Vale’s victory by crashing over for the final try after his fellow forwards had provided the platform. Hodder’s conversion from wide out brought a special cheer.
Weightman kicked a fourth penalty for Carlisle, but soon after was yellow carded for illegally disrupting a Vale forward move near to his own line. That signalled another onslaught for a depleted Vale – depleted ever further when winger Nick Royle was shown yellow for a high tackle – but they were unable to turn the pressure into a precious bonus fourth try.
A victory over Wilmslow at Powderhouse Lane this coming Saturday will put Vale back into the title race as real championship challengers.