Vale of Lune had a chastening experience at Newlands Avenue on Saturday as they were beaten 31-0 away at newly-promoted St Benedicts from Whitehaven.
When the Vale arrived, the ground staff were forking the pitch after heavy rain during the week had waterlogged parts of the pitch adjacent to the clubhouse and even when the game kicked off players splashed through puddles.
Unfortunately the opening minutes were marred by an injury to Saints’ winger Jamie Phillips who sustained a broken leg in the third minute.
Vale’s physio was first on the scene, not only to draw the referee’s attention to the seriousness of the injury but also to console and reassure the stricken player.
An ambulance crew quickly arrived but until the player’s condition could be stabilised he could not be moved.
Eventually, after a delay of 30 minutes, play resumed but it took both sides time to settle.
There were early signs that the home side were full of confidence, although the Vale achieved some dominance at scrum time and successfully compressed Saints close to their line but they were unable to press home their advantage in the sets.
The pace of the game started to pick up. Saints showed a willingness to move the ball wide while the Vale were quick to counter.
Winger Jimmy Birchall made a flowing run after he had intercepted the ball outside his 22 and full back Chris Ramwell always posed a threat when he broke from deep.
With six minute remaining the Vale found themselves under increasing pressure and when centre Kurt Maudlin swept powerfully through an over lap situation was created, hooker Kristian Wood took full advantage of the gap which appeared to cross with ease for an unconverted try.
In the 40th minute, with the hard working Dan Rainford in the sin bin, Saints added to their score with a well constructed try.
From a line-out the ball was moved across Vale’s 22 Maudlin went like an arrow to touch down between the posts, stand off, Dan Rayson converted.
Vale’s problems increased even further in the seventh minute of the second half when they failed to police, with any conviction, a tap penalty and before they could organise their defence winger Josh Rogerson had scooted away for a try which Rayson converted from wide out.
With the Saints pinging the ball around the Vale were forced to chase, they were unable to impose themselves, they did generate odd flourishes of optimism but Saint’s defence easily dealt with the Vale’s efforts.
Vale’s cause was not helped when first Fergus Owens and the Ross Pillow were shown yellow in the 57th and 63rd minutes respectively, as any hopes of a revival evaporated.
The Vale were forced to scramble even more to prevent their opponents running riot an they manged to hold out until the closing minutes.
In the 74th minute the rampaging Saints delighted their supporters when a forward drive led to their hard working number eight, Steven Nelson, forcing his way over for an unconverted try.
There was a touch of class surrounding the Cumbrian’s final try when centre Dean Relph chipped through to sweep the ball up in one flowing movement, his try being converted Rayson in the 37th minute.
The Vale’s halo has slipped somewhat following their second successive defeat, both against newly promoted clubs, this being their worse start to a league season since 2007/08 when the lost all six of their opening games in North Two West.
Quite an illuminating statistic ahead of Saturday’s fixture against Kirkby Lonsdale at Powderhouse Lane.