Make no mistake this was a top drawer encounter between two well matched sides in a contest backed with skill, commitment and passion in abundance, fully living up to its pre-match billing and would have graced any stage.
In front of the great and good of Sale FC, the home side clinched victory in dramatic style with a converted try in the sixth minute of injury time.
Trailing 20-19, winger Kevin Penny dashed into Vale’s half but faced with a wall of cherry and white clad opponents he kicked ahead and collected the ball at full pelt to race clear, each stride being greeted with roars from his fellow players and supporters as he raced behind the posts.
While the backslapping continued full back Scott Redfern put over the conversion.
Suffering from “Bad Penny Blues” the Vale put their disappointments and heartache into the background as they went earnestly about trying to salvage the situation in another six minutes of stoppage time.
Sale were pushed back, the Vale powered on as Sale scrambled to deny the visitors the merest opening, blocking all avenues as the clock ticked down until referee Daniels put everyone out of their collective agonies by blowing his whistle to end what had been a breathtaking encounter which left the players totally drained.
Vale unveiled their new signing, former Fylde player, England sevens star, Barbarian and English Counties player, Nick Royle.
The debutant had a number of opportunities to display his meteoritic speed and his potential was there to see, but as players from both sides discovered, the defensive networks proved difficult to penetrate due mainly to some coordinated double tackling with few players being able to slip the leash and when they did they were quickly hunted down and brought to ground.
On a perfect playing surface in ideal conditions the Vale made a disastrous opening, conceding three penalties inside the first eleven minutes, all kicked by Redfern in the first, ninth and eleventh minutes.
The Vale quickly cast aside their role of “Lady Bountiful” by tightening up their discipline and taking the game to Sale to remind the home side that they were not just there to make up the numbers.
In the sixteenth minute they produced a sustained assault in Sale’s twenty two.
Jimmy Moore popped the ball into touch for a line out from a penalty, followed by a drive and a dart from Andy Powers.
The Vale were awarded a scrum and with the throttle wide open the pack crunched forward and the hard working prop James Hesketh notched up his first try of the season which Moore converted from a difficult angle on the right in the eighteenth minute.
Stability returned to the Vale side, they were alert to some potentially dangerous attacks but were also capable of responding in kind.
Sam Moorby made a determined break down the left flank which resulted in Vale being awarded a penalty which Moore kicked in the twenty ninth minute to take the Vale into a one point lead.
Unfortunately it only lasted three minutes before the efficient boot of Redfern struck again with a fourth penalty, but neither side could afford to rest on their laurels.
Royle showed his class with a fifty yard mesmeric run that eluded the Sale cover and ended with James Hodder being halted short of the line.
The Vale’s enterprise was enough to set the Sale alarm bells ringing and they were penalised, Moore’s successful kicking nudging the Vale back into the lead.
Sale’s stand off, Nathan Bailey, forced the Vale to retreat with an incisive break and as the home side took the initiative Danny Waddy forced his way over from close range following a line out surge, Redfern added the conversion with two minutes remaining of a half that had literally flown by.
At the start of the second half Darren Wilson cut loose, Hodder darted crossfield and Moore clipped a penalty into touch for a line out ten metres out from Sale’s line.
Vale’s pack did the necessary with a copybook drive but Powers was penalised as he went for the line for not rolling away and the pressure on the home side was lifted.
In the sixty second minute Wilson set off on one of his scuttle runs after prodigious work by the forwards, in which Tudor played an uncompromising role, had tied in Sale.
The number nine beetled over for his try which Moore converted.
As the game moved into the final ten minutes, although few of the players or spectators were aware that there would be a sizeable chunk of overtime to be negotiated.
Sale increased the pressure with some dedicated scrummaging but the Vale were in no mood to be brushed aside.
One important surge was turned over, Wilson nicked the ball at an opportune moment, while Moore pumped a huge kick into touch and it appeared that the Vale had survived a torrid time until Sale rattled their loose change before Penny brought their account into the black and Redfern added the interest in a game that was glittering, breathless advert for North One West rugby.
Vale of Lune: N Royle; J Hodder, S Moorby, A Powers, J Curran; J Moore, D Wilson (Capt); J Hesketh, O Cowey, M Hanson (J O’Donnell 73); I Turton (A Garnett 47), H Fellows; S Wallbank, D Lin, G Tudor