Vale of Lune’s mini-revival ended with defeat at struggling Wigton on Saturday.
After back-to-back North One West wins this was a disjointed Vale performance that never achieved the momentum and single-mindedness that would be required to overcome a spirited, passionate young Wigton side who barring a mathematical miracle will be relegated.
Defeat for the Vale came as a shock after the mighty performance against Kendal and their efforts an the latter stages at Carlisle and was reminiscent of many encountered during the nine-game losing run.
With the wind and slope in their favour Wigton roared into the Vale early on, pinning them deep in their own half.
Vale’s defence was severely tested, but they tackled well constantly forcing Wigton wide and dealing with a forward threat, but they were unable to break out with any real conviction.
In the 16th minute Wigton were awarded a penalty try following sustained pressure in the Vale’s red zone after a tap penalty with centre Gregg Smith converting.
Towards the end of the first quarter there were positive signs that the Vale had weathered the early storm and were at last taking the game to Wigton.
Unfortunately when any breakdown occurred and possession was lost they were sent scurrying back, with the tails between their legs, into their twenty two by some thumping kicks from half backs, Fergus Ledingham and David Hanabury.
To their credit the Vale hung on to deny the hosts further points and in the 35th minute they started to crab their way out of their own half.
A 40-metre drive took them up to Wigton’s goal line. Sam Wallbank waited patiently at the base and just as he was about to ground the ball it was slapped out of his grasp.
Referee Astle had no hesitation in awarding the second penalty try which Oli Carter converted in the 39th minute.
With the elements in the Vale’s favour it would appear that the visitors would kick on but they perhaps underestimated their opponents because in the 44th minute Wigton went back into the lead. Casual defending by the Vale allowed Smith to cruise over for an unconverted after an adventurous threequarter move had been allowed to develop.
There was a quick riposte from a stunned Vale. The ball was moved calmly crossfield, nobody went for glory, space was created for Carter to cross wide out on the left for an unconverted try in the 48th minute.
The stand off suffered a leg injury in scoring and took no further part in the game but the reshuffle did not appear to effect the Vale.
Billy Swarbrick started to probe, Wallbank made a break but ran out of support, full back Chris Weeks accelerated through from deep and the forwards stated to look a more competitive unit but the break through stalled because of some resilient defending.
With the game evenly poised the Vale looked the more likely to score but one glorious chance was scorned as a two-on-one situation was blown in the 67th minute.
Two minutes later Wigton made the pieces fit when the Vale turned their backs on a tap penalty inside their twenty two after Wigton had battled their way up field.
Before the Vale had time to notice the storm cones, Smith smartly nipped through a retreating defence for a try he converted with a figure of eight conversion kick.
There was still enough time for the Vale to salvage something, other than a losing bonus point, but their game became very fragmented.
Individuals went off on lone sorties that were not tracked and ideas dried up as Wigton’s nerve held.
Vale firsts have no league fixture on Saturday. They return to North One West rugby on March 21 with a home game against Broughton Park.
However, there is a full programme of games at The Lane on Saturday with the headline fixture being Vale’s second team facing Chester 2 in a semi-final of the Brooke Edgley Specialist Technical Services Cup, kick-off 3pm.
Vale of Lune; C Weeks, J Birchall, C Lomas, A Macluskie, R Lamberton, O Carter, B Swarbrick, P McLaren-Dorrington, D Baines, A Powers, A Baines, M Barker, J Ayrton, A Garnett, S Wallbank (capt). Replacements used: F Owens, M Field, J McIntosh.