A SECOND half performance that defied logic from the Vale of Lune, when they surrendered a 24-6 half-time lead, had left their supporters frustrated and struggling to put into words what had unfolded at the picturesque Memorial Ground.
Vale failed to explode the expected fireworks against Wilmslow, their display began with plenty of promise, but after 40 minutes they had spluttered to a halt and all that remained were damp squibs as Wilmslow poured water on their potential pyrotechnics.
After Wilmslow’s stand-off had opened the scoring with a second minute drop goal prop Dan Woodhead calmly kicked a penalty goal with his unfussy style in the fifth minute.
This score brought stability to Vale’s game and they were reminded by skipper Darren Wilson to keep focused and be aware of what was happening around them.
A well taken try in the 11th minute showed that his instructions had been absorbed.
From a line-out Lee Acton raced away from 30 metres out on a side stepping run for a try converted by Woodward.
Six minutes later the Vale went further ahead. Jimmy Moore cross kicked towards the left wing and although James Hodder was unable to gather cleanly Tom Ball roared up in support to snaffle the loose ball for his try, Woodward again obliged.
Vale were good value for their lead, Wilmslow were kept at a distance as the visitor’s added a third try in the 24th minute.
Out on the right wing James Hesketh fielded a wayward Wilmslow penalty to set in motion a flowing attack.
Acton slipped an accurate pass to Moore who sprinted away for a solo try converted by Woodward.
Twenty four points in 24 minutes was not a bad return for the Vale but with 10 minutes of the half remaining MacCullum put over a penalty goal when the Vale were lured offside and the half ended with the Vale defending their line from a series of whiz-bangs from Wilmslow.
At the start of the second half Wilmslow produced the first of their sparklers in the shape of a slick passing move on the left that stretched the Vale’s defensive alignment.
Winger Tom Raynor crossed for his try converted by MacCullum.
Despite this setback the Vale continued in the same vein as the first half.
James Curran made a determined run down his wing after a break by TJ McCaw and a dancing run from Moore led to a penalty which Hodder kicked from in front in the 51st minute.
Two minutes later Wilmslow planted another fire cracker inside a ball that bounced away from Vale’s grasping hands.
They failed to clear the danger which allowed the Wilmslow pack to trundle their way towards Vale’s line, prop Sam Rodman being awarded the try which was not converted.
Throughout the half Wilmslow had gradually exerted their control on the game while the Vale’s game began to fragment.
Wilmslow narrowed Vale’s lead to a couple of points with a converted try in the 61st minute.
Full-back Ben Day brushed aside weak Vale tackling with a run from inside his own half in a flowing attack that ended with Rodman touching down and MacCullum converting.
Suddenly the Vale began to struggle to contain a fired up Wilmslow side that saw victory as a distinct possibility.
A penalty from MacCullum in the 66th minute took them into the lead as the Vale’s desperation began to increase.
Passes were dropped, the ball was knocked on and kicks for touch failed to find their target.
In the 79th minute the outcome was decided when Raynor scooted away for a try converted by MacCullum and although there was a lengthy period of injury time after Andy Powers had sustained an injury earlier in the half, the Vale were unable to seriously trouble the home side.
As the Vale left Wilmslow the neighbourhood firework displays were in full swing but for the Vale the fires that had burned so brightly the previous week were well and truly dampened by the hosts.
Vale of Lune: T Ball, J Hodder, T Macaw, A Powers (J Higgin 59), J Curran, J Moore, D Wilson (capt), J Hesketh, P Berry, D Woodward (A Morrison 43), L Acton, S Wallbank, J Clarkson (D Perry 58), D Lin, G Tudor.