VALE recorded their 11th North One West victory of the season at a soggy Reeds Lane on Saturday after overcoming New Brighton.
In such poor conditions the Vale were forced to pull their horns in, concentrate on keeping everything tight, eliminating errors and sacrificing adventure in the common cause of avoiding defeat.
Vale’s pack coped exceedingly well as the game unfolded.
True there were moments when they appeared to have lost cohesion and concentration, but to their credit they reasserted themselves.
Under Dan Perry’s leadership they closed ranks, took their opponents on without a backward step.
There were massive contributions, both in attack and defence, from prop Mark Hanson, lock Luke Ford and number eight Gareth Tudor; three players who firmly planted markers.
For the majority of the game the three-quarters were bedraggled onlookers, their major function being alert to the attacks that came their way, occasionally running with the ball in hand, but comforted by the thought that firm pitches are just around the corner.
Grin and bare it was the order of the day for the corralled prancers.
But two of the backs played an important role in Vale’s opening score which occurred before the electronic clock on the scoreboard had recorded 30 seconds.
Vale kicked off, the ball was safely gathered in by a defender, but his kick was charged down by Ian Bird. Centre Fergus Owens collected it cleanly to cross for a dramatic unconverted try.
Ten minutes later the Vale were awarded a penalty but James Hodder saw his effort drift wide at the last minute.
Gradually New Brighton, who had lost at home to Liverpool St Helens the previous week 44-14, came into the game as they put their early setback behind them.
In the 27th minute a hesitant, retreating Vale defence failed to clear the danger and in the confusion prop Tevita pounced for a try, converted by winger Gareth Simpson.
A fired–up New Brighton began to ruffle the Vale’s feathers and for the remainder of the half they appeared more at ease with the conditions than the visitors.
New Brighton extended their lead three minutes into the second half when a forward drive ended with number eight Katilimoni claiming an unconverted try.
Straight from the restart the Vale launched an attack to pin New Brighton back in their own territory.
Eventually under pressure the home side conceded a penalty but the ball declined a pot at goal in favour of scrum.
Everyone in the Vale camp knew the call, Tudor swung off the base to register his first try for the Vale, Hodder’s conversion glanced off an upright but bounced back infield. Five minutes later Darren Wilson raced 40 metres for a try accelerating away from his pursuers, Jimmy Moore added an important conversion from a difficult angle on the right, an ideal time to post a score.
On the hour mark New Brighton laid siege to Vale’s line with a series of five metre line-outs, but the Vale’s defence held firm, they did not panic, all avenues were sealed off before Vale were awarded a scrum and the danger passed.
Although New Brighton did muster further attacks the intensity was missing and when prop Alex Morrison came on for the final 12 minutes he ensued the scum remained tight as a drum. Sam Wallbank was the helmsman for 20 metre rolling maul that New Brighton struggled to contain as the Vale upped the pace.
With the Vale in ascendancy New Brighton had their stand-off Simione Mafi shown a yellow card but the Vale were unable to press home a number of promising attacks.
In the closing minutes both sides looked on edge for different reasons, the Vale wanted to protect their lead without doing anything silly, while New Brighton knew that one try would ensure the spoils were shared.
The frantic final minutes were not lost on the respective spectators in the stand, they did not require a warbling Sir Cliff to entertain them as the rain continued to fall, because there was enough unfolding before their eyes.
Eventually the electronic clock signalled that time was up at the end of what had been a far better game than could have been predicted in such unfavourable conditions.
Vale of Lune: J Hodder (J Williams 68), J Curran, F Owens, I Bird, A Richards, J Moore, D Wilson, J Hesketh, P Watson, M Hanson (A Morrison 68), L Ford, D Perry (capt), S Wallbank, A Garnett, G Tudor.