For the second game in succession, Vale of Lune clashed with a club – akin to themselves – who are aiming to escape the tentacles of relegation which are beginning to tighten alarmingly.
Long standing rivals Kendal arrived at Powderhouse Lane with five victories tucked away including one against Vale and on the back of two confidence-boosting wins.
However, it is all becoming uncomfortably tight at the bottom end of North Premier and while it is perhaps too early to speculate who is for the drop the likes of Vale, Kendal, Wilmslow and Lymm are all in the zone.
Wins, home or away, against those thrashing around in the pit become a necessity and while they might not guarantee a safe passage out before the pendulum finally swings they do provide a glimmer of hope.
On the day that was dubbed ‘Sunshine Saturday’ by the travel agents, Vale brought some brightness into the lives of their supporters with a try bonus point victory that eases ever so slightly their predicament but has not altered their position of next to bottom in the table.
The largest crowd of the season saw Vale making all the early running to put Kendal under intense pressure, in particular at scrum time with prop To’i Aualitia making an immediate impact.
In the 11th minute, Vale’s persistence brought its reward with a decisive try.
Stand-off Ben Dorrington made the initial break, brother Jordan cut the Kendal defence to ribbons and then in a most unselfish gesture he waited in the dead ball area for flanker Jack Ayrton, who was making his one 100th appearance, to arrive before presenting him with the ball for a try which winger Damon Hall converted.
As was to be expected in a Derby game, it was a feverish opening from both sides and in the 14th minute Kendal drew level with a well-worked try from a swift counter attack.
Winger Nick Carlton completed the move with a try that stunned the home supporters, stand-off Glen Weightman put over the conversion.
Vale quickly recovered their composure and in the build up to their second try a charged-down kick from winger Olly Jacques set the move in motion.
Hall scythed his way through the defence, lock James Robinson – one of the finds of the season – was in acres of space out on the left flank to take full advantage of Hall’s accurate pass to battle his way over for an unconverted try in the 19th minute.
Kendal always posed a threat when back row forwards Chris Downham and Kirk Chettleburgh threw themselves whole heartily into the mix, while centre Dino Noyo was a danger in broken play but the Vale tightened their grip on the game the longer the half progressed.
In the 25th minute, Vale’s threequarters cut loose with an electrifying passage of rugby that brought back memories of last season. Hall and Jacques combined to send centre Fergus Owens, steadfast and strong in the middle throughout, on his way for a try which Hall converted.
It was not all one way traffic, Kendal kept plugging away but Vale’s defence held firm, in particular around the fringes of scrums and mauls.
Ruan Fourie, who had an outstanding game in the second row, made a powerful break pushing aside tacklers in a charge that eventually resulted in a penalty which Hall duly slotted between the posts in the second minute of added time, after receiving plenty of advice from the East Terrace about ‘putting points on the board.”
Vale might have finished on a high but they made a lethargic, sloppy opening to the second stanza.
Not only was Jordan Dorrington shown a yellow card but the Vale failed to exert any grip on the opening exchanges. Ben Dixon made a powerful break for Kendal to build up a platform deep in Vale’s 22 as Kendal tied Vale down.
Eventually the ball was moved to the right for Nick Carlton to touch down wide out in the 43rd minute; Weightman again converted with a precise kick.
This was just the wake-up call, Vale needed because in the 50th minute they collected the try bonus point.
Hall and Chris Ramwell were involved in the early stages, as were the forwards who won quick line out ball, but it was Jacques who soloed his way to the line after he recovered from a stumble in his flight path for his try which Hall converted.
Kendal had no intention of coasting along as they reminded the Vale of their potential with a series of scrums close the home side’s goal line but despite the intensity of a number of close quarter exchanges the Vale remained calm.
A dancing run from Noyo was a gentle reminder that Kendal were capable of chewing into Vale’s lead.
Hall smoothly went through the gears in the 63rd minute for one his trademark tries to score wide out on the right and then put over the conversion with an effortless kick.
With the light rapidly fading, Hall lashed over a 40 metre penalty goal in the 72nd minute to end the scoring in a game that was well refereed by Kieron Henry, who ensured that everyone knew who was in charge and any eruptions of nonsense were swiftly dealt with, without any melodrama.
January has started well for Vale but they are still a long way from finding a safe passage through the woods, they have to hack their way through a few formidable trunks and branches at Kirkby Lonsdale and then at home against Ilkley and Alnwick before any thoughts of stashing away the chain saws can be remotely considered.