Vale of Lune 12 Harpenden 14: Pre-season defeat on Vale's return to competitive rugby
The significance of this pre-season contest cannot be overlooked because it was the first competitive fixture for Vale of Lune since March 2020.
They faced Harpenden on their first visit to Powder House Lane, meaning Vale’s 519-day wait for competitive rugby was over.
This particular coming together certainly contained plenty of heat, and while there was huge respect from both sets of players, tackles were full bodied and the close quarter exchanges were pretty full-on.
It was an ideal workout which allowed director of rugby, Jack Ferguson, and head coach, Joel Unsworth, to run the rule over their charges.
Three players were returning to the cherry and white jersey, Sam Wallbank who scored a try and was named man of the match, Chris Ramwell who also scored a try and a conversion, while Jack Turton has class stamped all over him.
Harpenden put Vale under pressure straight from the kick-off as repeated forward drives were halted, forcing Vale to cling on grimly.
After 15 minutes of one sided-action, Wallbank spearheaded a Vale attack.
Scrum-half Billy Swarbrick scooted though following his quick thinking and Vale were suddenly on the offensive.
The forwards took the ball at a lineout and surged into Harpenden’s 22 with a sweeping move that ended with Wallbank’s 17th minute try, converted by Ramwell.
Ten minutes later, Ramwell roared over on the left for an unconverted try following a series of slick passes in a move that went from right to left.
Harpenden came back into the game as changes were made to Vale’s structure but Turton’s accurate kicking ensured they had little time to occupy the danger area.
Vale began the second half in adventurous mode but were unable to press home their attacks and, slowly, Harpenden came back into contention as Vale swapped players which began to affect their overall control in key areas.
A determined phase of rugby in Vale’s 22 ended with the visitors scoring a converted try in the 63rd minute.
The Hertfordshire-based club then began to set the agenda as Vale struggled to build any stable platform.
The outcome hung in the balance until the 77th minute when a series of missed tackles and a lack of concentration allowed Harpenden to collect the easiest of converted tries.
Matty Humpage then shot away on a 40-metre dash in injury time but was just beaten when he chased his kick into the dead ball area.
Vale searched in vain for a winning score but Harpenden refused to panic and their heads remained cool to help secure victory.
On Saturday, Vale will be sending two teams to Eccles for the club’s centenary tournament and, on August 28, they take on Blackburn at Ramsgreave Drive in a Lancashire Cup tie.
Vale of Lune: G Bowley, A Powers, R O’Heirhir, L Kettlewell, Harry Fellows, S Wallbank, J Ayrton, J Robinson, B Swarbrick, H Finan, M Humpage, Jack Turton, S Manning, E Robertson, C Ramwell, N Tulley, J Stevens, S Tagg, J Thomas, H Morrison, L Starkey, P Aleksov, T Cvijanovic, A Crookall.