Rochdale 20-20 Vale

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VALE of Lune secured a share of the spoils in a drama laden second half at Moorgate Avenue.

With only six minutes of proper time remaining, the Vale trailed 20-15, but a Rochdale player suffered an injury that caused referee Craig Barclay to sensibly halt proceedings immediately and await the arrival of the ambulance.

Both sides departed for the warmth of the changing rooms while the injured player, winger Tom Andrews, was made comfortable, with Vale’s physio Collette playing an active role before it was safe to move the player into the waiting ambulance.

Andrews was taken to hospital where he remained overnight with concussion and a badly gashed ear.

Play resumed 25 minutes later with the floodlights fully powered up as the Vale set out positively to bridge the gap.

Vale put the home side under prolonged pressure in the remaining minutes but just as a resolute Rochdale side appeared to heading towards victory, disaster struck.

An innocuous situation suddenly went pear shaped for the home side’s defenders inside their 22.

It appeared it was a simple task to boot the ball into touch but up popped Adam Macluskie, who was making his first appearance since the middle of October, to spirit the ball away to plunder an unconverted try, and two points for his side.

Early on all the traffic was one way, towards Vale’s line, as Rochdale moved the ball confidently and a couple of flowing attacks underlined their intent.

A period of sustained Rochdale pressure resulted in number eight, Mike Bradwell, kicking a penalty goal in the 12th minute.

As a rainbow arced over the Pennines, Tom Carter replied with a penalty two minutes later and when Rochdale had their tight head prop sent to the sin-bin the game began to swing in the Vale’s favour.

Carter made a slashing break to push Rochdale deep into their 22 and in the 29th minute the Vale went into the lead.

From a Rochdale five metre scrum, Danny Lin charged the kick down and before the defenders could react he touched down for an unconverted try, his first of the campaign; a singular piece of ingenuity from a player who is rarely from the centre of the action where the forwards are concerned.

In the second minute of injury time, Bradwell kicked a penalty, but with dark threatening clouds beginning to build early in the second half the Vale went further ahead.

From a line-out Jimmy Moore set off on one of his twinkling runs, confusing the opposition with a sway of the hips before skipping between the posts for his try, converted by Carter in the 47th minute.

With the game evenly poised the proceedings began to tilt in Rochdale’s favour when Lee Acton, in his 100th game, was sent to the sin-bin, and like the Vale in the first half, the home side made the extra player advantage pay.

Stand-off Rob Neave raced through a disjointed and disorganised Vale defence for a well balanced solo try in the 55th minute, Bradwell converted.

Vale were compressed for long periods but Carter made a break from a mark to link with James Curran in a spectacular move.

Rochdale shot into the lead in the 68th minute when Neave, who was proving to be something of an elusive demon as far as the Vale were concerned, ripped down their left flank for a second pulsating score which Bradwell again converted.

Gradually the Vale increased the intensity but the game came to a juddering halt when Andrews sustained his injury.

Both sides went through an intensive warm-up prior to the restart and as the closing minutes unfolded, Rochdale endeavoured to protect what they had, while the Vale were fully fired up to retrieve something from a game between two evenly matched sides.

Perhaps there was an element lifted from the pantomime season behind Macluskie’s try, all that was missing was a shout from the touchlines of “he’s behind you,” while all the Robber Baron was lacking was a mask and a bag marked swag.

Vale of Lune: T Carter, J Hodder, A Powers, A Macluskie, J Moore, D Wilson (capt), J Hesketh, P Berry, A Morrison (D Woodward 76), L Acton, S Wallbank, J Clarkson, D Lin, A Baines (G Tudor 31).