Vale of Lune 8-21 Northwich
Vale of Lune took on Northwich for the first time at Powderhouse Lane since October 2011 and the visitors recorded their first ever league victory at Powderhouse Lane.
Under leaden skies the Vale pack acquitted themselves well, they took a couple of scrums against the head with powerful surges, they posed a threat at any line out in the red zone, and there were occasional flashes of promise in the loose.
The front row of Alex Preston, Jack Ferguson and Ross Pillow worked hard between the shafts, Tom Cvijanovic picked up where he left off last season and the back row were alert to any openings, which were few and far between.
There were brief glimpses of the talents of Tom Slater, Jonty Higgin and Chris Ramwell in the backs, it was not a day for kicking over the traces although it might have been interesting if someone had let slip the reins.
Even scrum half Billy Swarbrick was keen to keep the game moving with a series of darting runs, but overall the Vale were unable to turn Northwich’s defence and gallop into the space behind them.
An immaculate playing surface glistened as both sides probed for an opening in what was a pretty one paced canter, with the respective defences having the bit firmly between their teeth.
Slowly the field settled down but it was Northwich who got their noses in front in the 14th minute.
Ramwell missed with a penalty attempt in the 12th minute before Northwich took the lead.
The ball was drilled into touch and from the line out the Vale conceded a scrum ten metres out.
Northwich’s pack nudged forward, number eight Sam Naylor picked up at the base, threw an outrageous dummy which was bought hook line and sinker by the Vale which allowed Naylor to scuttle through the hole for his try which was converted by stand off, Nick Baldwin. Within six minutes the Vale had reduced the deficit.
The pack heaved Northwich off the ball, Billy Swarbrick took a quick tap and in the meantime referee Lewis had awarded the Vale a penalty which Slater slammed over.
Slowly the pace of the game of the picked up but in the 27th minute the Vale fell further behind when prop Sean Phillips barged his way over from close range, Nick Baldwin converted to ensure that the Vale lagged behind at the turn.
Northwich came hurtling out of the starting stalls as the whistle blew for the second half to stampede in, around, and through Vale’s defences.
Eventually an orthodox three quarter movement unseated the Vale, winger, Hayden Skinkis galloping over in the 51st minute for a try converted by Nick Baldwin.
This score goaded a reaction from the Vale who posted a score in the 54th minute.
Slater thrashed the ball into touch from a penalty. A well orchestrated Vale line out provided the opportunity for skipper Sam Wallbank to seize the ball and be driven over for an unconverted try.
Suddenly the Vale gained an impetus to their game which had been lacking for long periods.
Passes were held, the running became more direct as Northwich were pushed onto the backfoot.
A number of scoring chances were created but unfortunately the ball carrier ignored those around him and went to ground.
Gradually Vale ran out of ideas, Northwich sensed that a famous victory was within their grasp and although the latter stages witnessed an unsavoury brawl, the winners crossed the line thirteen points to the good, a final score line that few bookies would have given before kick off.