TO KICK or not to kick, that was the question at Houghend Crescent, whether it was nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of frustrated fans and take the aches and thousand natural shocks and still remain faithful to the creed to keep the ball in hand.
Certainly the Vale of Lune did not bombard their host’s territory in the first half when they had first use of the wind and they did look more comfortable in the second 40 when their passing, counter attacking and running asked questions of Broughton Park. Unfortunately the Vale found the half-time deficit of 24-5 too large to claw back.
The Vale did not return empty handed having secured a losing bonus point as their topsy-turvy season continues to bowl along on its merry way.
The first half passed in an incomprehensible tactical blur, but the second half showed the Vale at their frustrating best; inspired passages of rugby punctuated by some overt ambitious tactics such as throwing long into a whirling maelstrom.
Injury hit Vale added another two players to their ever expanding list when Luke Richmond was carried off with a serious looking knee injury and the all action threequarter, Tom Ball, ended the game limping and swathed in bandages.
However, birthday boy Sam Wallbank came through unscathed, after a fair old battering in the second row.
One of the smallest back divisions ever fielded by the Vale created a number of chances in the opening exchanges but Park took the lead in the 15th minute when after a catalogue of errors in the Vale’s defensive set-up Park’s stand-off, Jonny Thomas, spotted the opportunity to claim an unconverted try.
With the ball booming around at the line-outs and the Vale struggling to seriously inconvenience Park’s defence they fell further behind in the 23rd minute when fullback Ronan O’Brien picked his way through an open weave Vale defence for a try which he converted.
Vale responded with an accurate cross-kick from Jimmy Moore that the marauding prop Alex Morrison almost latched on to, but in the 32nd minute the black and whites went further ahead.
A two man overlap was exploited to the full as the Vale back pedalled in confusion. Centre Paddy O’Donnell crossed for a try converted by O’Brien from in front.
In the 35th minute the Vale collected their first points when prop James Hesketh forced his way over after a dancing run from Hodder, but Park had the last word when lock forward Ali Ellis broke away to link and with George Mosey in support, the centre cruising over for a try converted by O’Brien.
Although under pressure from the boot of O’Brien the Vale weathered the early second half storm and with the home side’s prop Guy Barlow off the field following a yellow card the Vale began to clamber back into the game.
Their fortunes took a turn for the better when Ball lobbed the ball over a flat Park defence to claim the rebound in full stride to sprint away for his first try, which was unconverted in the 56th minute.
The Vale’s cause was enhanced in the 74th minute when they turned the ball over at line-out five metres from their own line.
Suddenly Ball came scampering away, Park funnelled back but Ball remained calm and when the defenders closed in he threaded the ball through to the supporting Owen Hughes who went skedaddling over for a try, the conversion being clipped over by Moore.
After missing with a penalty attempt two minutes earlier O’Brien put another notch on the safety belt when he kicked a 78th minute penalty goal.
The Vale hit back immediately with a jinking run from Darren Wilson that resulted in Park conceding a penalty. After consulting with the referee and checking with the digital clock on the scoreboard, Moore kicked the penalty at the end of proper time to secure a point.
Vale of Lune: J Hodder, L Richmond (K Barker 35), T Ball, D Wilson, J Curran, J Moore, O Hughes, J Hesketh, P Berry, A Morrison, L Acton (capt), S Wallbank, J Clarkson, A Baines, G Tudor.