Crewe and Nantwich 24-40 Vale of Lune
It might have been a dawdle down the M6 but there was no shilly-shallying surrounding the Vale of Lune's pre-season fixture at Newcastle Road.
In perfect conditions, with the willow thwacking away on a nearby cricket square, a feisty encounter unfolded that put any notion of a ‘friendly,’ firmly on the back burner.
Victory came at a price with number eight Alex Baines having to be helped off early doors with an ankle injury that required hospital treatment, a final diagnosis being made on its severity once the swelling has reduced.
Lock Adam Foxcroft was dumped dangerously when he caught the ball in mid-air in the 32nd minute, and although he recovered he played no further part.
Stand off Jack Turton limped off with a knee injury in the 57th minute and quickly had an ice pack strapped onto his patella.
All these injuries drained the bench, but despite the preponderance of threequarters coach Williams shuffled his resources to good effect.
Perhaps the moist eyebrow raising substitution was the appearance of James Curran as a replacement for Alex Baines.
Not only did the long limbed winger lock up the back row but his height and agility enabled him to claim valuable line-out ball.
Crewe and Nantwich made all the running in the early stages and after eight minutes an attack that involved a series of intricate passes resulted in a converted try.
Centre Jonty Higgin surged through to put the Vale on the front foot after they had weathered the home side’s early storm.
In the 18th minute the Vale’s efforts were rewarded when the dynamic Billy Swarbrick pirouetted over after he had taken control at a tap penalty, for an unconverted try.
The home side extended their lead with a try in the 22nd minute and a converted try in the 25th minute.
However, by the end of the first third of the game the Vale cut the deficit when Slater completed a slick handling move with a try converted by Turton.
Vale stepped on the accelerator at the restart and levelled the scores in the 40th minute after a rampaging, no holds barred run from Chris Ramwell paved the way for a Higgin try, converted by Turton.
As the Vale began to exert more control their confidence increased, and without over elaboration they stretched Crewe’s defence.
Replacement Sam Stott showed what a clinical finisher he is with a neatly taken try converted by Ramwell in the 57th minute.
Late in an extended second third Wallbank raced over for a deserved try from a line-out after Curran had secured the ball, Ramwell calmly slotted the conversion.
The final session, which had been reduced to a quarter of an hour after a summit meeting between the two captains, was played with all the passion that had dominated the opening segment.
The pace increased, the tackling had an edge to it, and referee Hiney needed three sixty vision to monitor proceedings. Tom Slater completed Vale’s scoring after another sequence of consummate passing, Ramwell converted to round off a first class contribution from the debutants.
Just before the final whistle the hosts grabbed a consolation try following break through a Vale’s defence that was strung out like a line of washing.