ONE of the beers sold in Sandbach’s clubhouse was labelled Jekyll’s Gold which adequately summed up the Vale of Lune’s performance at Bradwell Road which had more of a hint of the Jekyll and Hyde about it.
Within two minutes of the end of proper time the Vale were down 22-15 and appeared to be heading for their eighth North One West defeat of the season but they roused themselves.
Sandbach were penalised and Vale opted for a scum rather than a kick at goal.
A solid platform enabled Darren Wilson to whip the ball wide where a slight gap appeared for Fergus Owens who went over for his try.
Jimmy Moore, from wide out on the left, took his bearings, went through his well honed routine before guiding the ball between the uprights to level the scores.
But the book was not yet closed, there were four minutes of a tension filled appendix yet to be played out.
Both sides were intent on finding a winning elixir. Sandbach pinned the Vale on their five metre line, the Vale’s throw in was adjudged not straight but the feed at Sandbach’s scrum was crooked and the Vale survived.
In the final minute it was the home supporters who heaved a huge sigh of relief when Moore’s penalty attempt from five metres inside their half fell short of the target.
Vale had set off at a spanking pace and in the 10th minute their efforts were rewarded when Moore kicked a penalty goal, but within five minutes Sandbach had levelled the scores with a Will Cargill penalty.
But it was not just the Vale who settled back after a score as Sandbach showed in the 18th minute. Wilson went off on one of his corkscrewing forays, Garnett was at his elbow throughout, and after a discreet cough he called for the ball before touching down behind the posts, Foster converting.
But the cheers had hardly died down when Sandbach came roaring back and from a five metre line-out lock forward Chris Davenport was driven over for an unconverted try in the 22nd minute.
But the die had been cast, you score we score, and sure enough back came the Vale with a second try four minutes later.
At times the Vale’s passing is a delight to watch and when Owens threaded a pass to Foster, the full-back hit the line flat out and using Alistair Richards as the perfect foil he sold an exquisite dummy on a lone defender before going over for an unconverted try.
In keeping with the pattern of the half it came as no surprise that Sandbach would be the next to score, they duly obliged in the 28th minute.
An orthodox threequarter movement did not appear to pose too much of a threat but Vale’s blitz defence petered out, an overlap was created and winger Nick Jerman went over on the right, Cargill converting from a far from easy angle.
Both sides were off target with penalties early in the second half as they struggled to achieve the necessary composure.
Replacement Alex Morrison delighted his ever growing fan club when on a couple of occasions the prop not only fielded the ball safely but threw in some high tariff dummies which brought forth spontaneous applause.
But it was the home side’s forwards who began to muscle in on the act and in the 68th minute they fashioned a try for man of the match and birthday boy, scrum half George Oakey.
From a line out 10 metres from Vale’s line, Sandbach got their act together and edged ever closer before Oakey shot like a whippet over the line for his try which Cargill converted via an upright.
This time there was no immediate response from the Vale, they waited a nerve jangling 10 minutes to ensure there was something to celebrate in the wine bars of Didsbury on the way back to base.
Vale of Lune: N Foster (J Hodder 63), A Macluskie, F Owens, I Bird, A Richards, J Moore, D Wilson, P Jackson (A Morrison 40), P Watson, M Hanson, L Ford, D Perry (capt), S Wallbank, A Garnett, G Tudor (D Lin 54).