VALE were forced to ring the changes at Wigton, bringing prop Phil Jackson in for his first start of the season, centre Andrew Garnett had not played in the first team since the beginning of October, and Dan Perry had been out since coming on at Widnes in November.
Also thrown into the mix was a trio of rookies, young Damon Hall, Wayne Blythe and Rhodri Bowen.
It was quite a baptism for all concerned but their heads did not drop and they collectively did enough to ensure their names were pencilled into the selector’s notebooks.
After the Wigton pitch had been passed fit early in the morning, only one other North One West fixture was played, Liverpool St Helens winning at Wirral 29-16, the kick-off was delayed for 10 minutes because of the late arrival of the referee.
It was the Vale who made all the early running but their enterprise soon petered out as the Wigton forwards took control.
In the eighth minute the Wigton eight struck. A Wigton penalty was lobbed into touch for a five metre line, clean ball was obtained with little interference, and the forwards went through a well rehearsed routine, the net result being that prop Lindsay Walker was swept over for an unconverted try.
Five minutes later a similar scenario unfolded, but this time another five metre line-out was held up and Wigton were awarded a scrum.
On came the power that was initially resisted but a second surge, followed by some close quarter passing, ended with lock Robert Marrs touching down for a captains’ try converted by full-back Greg Smith.
Prolonged pressure inside the Vale’s 22 ended inevitably with a score when number eight Stuart Creighton shot down the blind side for his try which was converted by Smith.
As the game moved into its second quarter the Vale staged a minor recovery.
From a line-out they indulged in some slick passing that sent James Hodder flying down the touch line.
The ball was moved back inside for Adam Macluskie to slice through for a try converted by Tom Carter in the 23rd minute.
Suddenly the Vale looked a different side. Hall was gaining in confidence and Blythe was alert to any opportunities that came his way as the Wigton defence was stretched.
A score at this stage would have brought the Vale back into contention but in the closing four minutes Wigton well and truly put the game beyond the Vale’s reach.
The try bonus point was secured for Wigton with a well-worked cross field move that allowed winger Callum Studholme to take a pass at full speed for a clinical unconverted try.
It was only fitting that the final score of the half came from another Wigton line-out.
All those hours spent on the training ground had been worth it when Creighton collected his second try after referee Jones had deliberated long and hard before coming to his decision, Smith again converted.
Wigton’s day was made complete as early as the 47th minute when stand-off Dave Hanbury set off on a solo 50 metre run, selling dummies like a fired up raffle seller.
These were bought by a strangely transfixed Vale defence before Hanbury hit the jackpot with a popular try that had the Greens supporters in raptures.
Vale rang the changes but their cause was looking increasingly very much a lost one.
Hodder and Blythe combined well but Smith beat them to the touchdown before the Vale added to their score in the 63rd minute.
The ball was move swiftly crossfield, replacement Alex Baines surged through tackles before releasing Hodder for a try converted by Carter.
Any thoughts of a Vale comeback were severely jolted when Smith kicked a penalty goal in the 69th minute.
Three minutes later the Vale were awarded a penalty try after a passing movement between Hodder and Macluskie was illegally halted, Carter converted.
With time running out and any thoughts of a bonus point for the Vale receding, Smith lashed over a long range penalty goal to complete a sorry day for the visitors at Lowmoor Road.
Vale of Lune: D Hall (R Bowen 63), J Hodder, A Macluskie, A Garnett, W Blythe, T Carter, J Moore, P Jackson (P Watson 55), P Berry, A Cowey, D Perry (capt), S Wallbank, G Tudor (A Baines 55), D Lin, B Charnley.