Vale of Lune 24-26 Altrincham Kersal
By a strange quirk of fate, Vale of Lune begin their season with a fixture that has similar overtones to the one that kicked off their brief sojourn in North Premier.
Last year, Vale, as champions of North One West, travelled to Crow Trees, home of Blaydon RFC, who had been relegated from National Two North.
On Saturday at Powderhouse Lane a similar scenario unfolded when Vale, who had dropped out of North Premier, hosted Altrincham Kersal who had topped Lancashire/Cheshire One.
A large crowd were treated to a flurry of attacking intent from both sides in which Scott Manning made an early electrifying break. James Robinson soared at a line out but gradually Altrincham Kersal began to make inroads into Vale territory and in the 13th minute, after turning the screw relentlessly, they were rewarded.
A drive from a close range line-out ended with No.8 Andrew Dauncey claiming a not entirely unexpected unconverted try.
This score caused Vale to crank up the volume and in the 17th minute they drew level.
The quick thinking Billy Swarbrick set the move into motion and Jack Ayrton rounded off a flowing attack that had the East Terrace in raptures, with an unconverted try.
Altrincham Kersal came storming back into contention via their forwards, and were quickly shunting and rolling Vale around but the defensive network held firm.
It was therefore something of a disappointment when Vale lost control of the ball at the base of their scrum which allowed scrum half, Callum Yates, to steal the easiest of tries which was converted by stand-off Jaco Dauldry.
As the half moved into the closing 10 minutes , Vale took a firm grip on the game.
Manning sliced through, the forwards took play deep into the red zone and in the 34th minute prop Alex Preston was propelled over for his first ever try at this level which was not converted.
Three minutes later, Vale went into the lead with another high energy score.
Lock Harry Fellows started the move with a strong urge from 40 metres out, his off-load to wing Jordan Fern was exquisite who in turn sent Manning racing over for a deserved try which he converted.
The try bonus point was collected in the fourth minute of the second half with a liberal dose of panache.
A lightning pass from Swarbrick gave added momentum, hooker Harm Dokter burst through tackles in a move that ended with Jack Ayrton rocketing between the posts, his try being converted by Manning.
Altrincham Kersal hit back almost immediately when centre Kashley Watkins was on hand to dot the ball down after his fellow forwards had made the hard yards, Dauldry put the conversion over in the 49th minute.
With the outcome balancing on a knife edge it was hard to judge who would collect the spoils but Altrincham Kersal whipped up the pace and the tension.
Again, Vale were well organised in defence but they were all at strung out when the visitors launched a slick counter attack which opened up a huge gap which was exploited to the full by Watkins who sprinted between the posts, his welcome try being converted by Dauldry on the 62nd minute.
As the minutes ticked down the action was fast and furious.
Altrincham Kersal held a precarious lead, they were unable to gain the whip hand but must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when after the Vale were awarded a penalty within range of the posts but opted to go for an attacking line out.
Possession was lost by the home side which allowed Altrincham Kersal to clear their lines and police the closing seven minutes with a degree of comfort.