Vale of Lune’s search for the Holy Grail of promotion to the North Premier received a huge boost on Saturday following their try bonus victory over nearest rivals Blackburn.
Vale now have seven more North One West fixtures to play and hold a 17-point gap over second placed Blackburn.
Snow showers, bright sunshine and a bitingly cold wind interrupted the pre match warm up but on a perfectly prepared playing surface it was Blackburn who took the lead in the third minute.
A wind assisted slapped back Vale line out ball had the home side scratching around in defence, an uneasy scrum did not help confidence and while the Vale tried to regain some composure, number eight Corey Logan spotted the indecision to collect a try which skipper Phil Baines converted.
A series of Vale attacks stretched Blackburn and in the10th minute they drew level.
The ball was transferred crossfield, full back Chris Ramwell came into the line and even when he received the ball the number 15 had work to do, he feinted to left and right and with an exquisite dip of the shoulders he was off and away for his try which Damon Hall converted.
In the 22nd minute, Phil Baines thumped a penalty against an upright but in the 27th minute the Vale took the lead when Hall kicked a penalty goal.
In the closing five minutes of the first half the ball bobbled agonisingly close to Vale’s corner flag, it stubbornly refused to roll into touch and while the Vale defenders gazed on hypnotically centre Leon Fifield whisked the ball from under their noses and in slow motion touched down for an unconverted try.
Vale quickly snapped out of their trance and in the 39th minute they retook the lead in dramatic style when Hall passed inside to Evan Stewart who accelerated clear of the cover for a try which Hall converted.
There was still enough time remaining for Hall to unleash himself on a magnificent solo run, slipping through tackles, leaving opponents grasping at thin air on his way to an unconverted try in the first minute of injury time.
In the 51st minute an orthodox passing move ended with the ball in the hands of Hall, the winger by now brimfull of confidence, moved effortlessly down the flank, dropped down a gear and as the defenders came towards him he floored the pedal to go racing way for an unconverted try which brought with it the try bonus point.
Blackburn, via their forwards, grabbed the initiative but the siege was lifted in the 69th minute when Damon Hall intercepted the ball deep in Vale’s 22 to race 90metres on a celebratory, hand waving run for his hat-trick and for good measure he converted from in front.
For Blackburn there was still plenty to play for, a possible try bonus point in particular when centre Marc Maher touched down wide out for an unconverted try in the 74th minute, plus a losing bonus, although outright victory looked to carry very long odds.
Blackburn battled until the final whistle but the Vale’s excellent defence ensured they left Powderhouse Lane empty handed.