Vale of Lune second team’s dream of lifting the BEST Cup ended at Bradwall Road when their gallant display ended in a 27-8 defeat to Preston Grasshoppers.
On a cold, breezy, damp, May day in Cheshire, the Vale made the prefect start when stand off Neil Walker, who worked the line well, kicked a penalty goal in the third minute.
Playing down the incline, Tom Crookall burst through a number of tackles as the Vale pinned Hoppers down.
The danger posed by Preston’s threequarters was underlined when a quick fire counter attack ended in a penalty which was kicked in the eighth minute.
A try followed from Preston three minutes later when their pack laid the groundwork for an unconverted try.
Vale continued to attack and apply pressure. Walker saw a penalty drift wide of the target in the 22nd minute but Preston’s defence proved equal to the task.
Disaster struck for the Vale when a sweeping attack broke down just outside Preston’s twenty two.
The ball was pounced on by Preston’s right centre who raced away unopposed for a solo try which was converted in the 24th minute.
The second half started badly for the Vale when a grave error in their defence let in Preston for a soft try which was converted inside the opening minute.
Despite a rocky opening the Vale regrouped, although they had to endure a near constant battering from the Hoppers, who had their sights firmly fixed on posting a large total.
However, the Vale were quick to close down Preston’s enterprise at close quarters, but they were unable to put together any sustained passages of rugby to break the established pattern that was evolving.
One rare Vale excursion into Preston territory ended with Hoppers producing the try of the game when the ball was moved at pace from their own twenty two.
Sublime, accurate passing, at a rich tempo, ended with an unconverted try, which on its completion brought a deserved ovation from both camps; a try to grace any final.
With three minutes of proper time remaining the Vale collected the try that their efforts, in a testing environment, fully deserved. From a tap penalty Dan Rainford crashed over for a try to climax what had been a massive season from the big hearted lock forward.