Vale of Lune 43-5 Keswick

Ike Eastwood sprints to score. Picture: Tony North.
Ike Eastwood sprints to score. Picture: Tony North.

Keswick, who were champions of Cumbria Division One last season, have mirrored Vale of Lune’s start to their life in North Premier a year ago, with the Cumbrians having lost their opening five games.

However, their season has been hampered by an alarming number of injuries picked up early doors with their playing resources of a young squad being stretched to the limits.

The Vale have not been without personnel problems and although Storm Lorenzo might well have blown itself out by kick off time at Powderhouse Lane, the unavailability of some Vale players due to work commitments and suspension caused a few squalls for the selectors to negotiate as they attempted to batten down a squad and make sure that all positions were firmly secured.

Initially the breeze in mid week had been enough to ruffle the team sheets as names were pencilled in and then scratched out.

In the end, all positions were filled and by the final whistle the Vale had recorded their highest points victory since April 2018 when they won at home against Northwich, 57-22.

Alas it did come at a price because in the 66th minute Joe Wallbank was shown a red card by referee Rob Sheard after a bout of wanton violence from players on both sides, following a hefty tackle on stand-off Alex Briggs, an incident that also earned a yellow card for a Keswick miscreant but this brawl was out of character with how the game had been played up to this point.

This was the second successive red card for a Vale player and will not have gone unnoticed by the Lancashire RUFC Disciplinary Committee at their next meeting.

With foul play coming under the spotlight at the Rugby World Cup there could well be serious repercussions for the Vale when the verdict is handed down.

Despite what might be coming down the line at a later date the Vale made the perfect start when a quick fire attack that ended with the in-form and elusive full back Scott Manning surging over for an unconverted try inside the first minute and well before a large contingent on the East Terrace had adjusted their bifocals.

Three minutes later man of the match, scrum half Henry Higginson, on his debut, spotted a gap in Keswick’s defence to bolt over for a try converted by stand-off Alex Briggs.

A dominant Vale side set the tempo and tightened their grip on the game with two more tries before the end of the first quarter.

In the tenth minute prop Ross Pillow, a renowned operator in the dark recesses of the front row, muscled his way over for an unconverted try.

In the 18th minute a flowing Vale attack ended with winger Ike Eastwood collecting a well worked unconverted try to tuck away the try bonus point.

The examination of Keswick’s defence continued but the Vale were unable to add to their score before half time and in the 33rd minute, from a rare drop in commitment they were punished.

Winger Ryan Weir set off on a high stepping run that eluded some unconvincing Vale tackling for a splendid unconverted solo try.

Keswick made a bright opening to the second half but it was the Vale who added to their total.

Lock forward Harry Fellows made the initial break in a move that resulted on an unconverted try for the hard grafting flanker Jack Ayrton in the47th minute.

Despite chasing a 24 point deficit Keswick, via a lively back division, took the game to the Vale but some resolute defending denied the visitors any clear cut chances.

Everything boiled over in the 66th minute but to the credit of all the players common sense prevailed for the remainder of the game.

The introduction of the wrecking machine in the shape of prop James Hesketh gave Keswick another dimension to think about and in the final ten minutes the Vale held sway. While James Hesketh wielded the battleaxe and cutlass the likes of Manning and centre Michael Forrest preferred the delicacy and finesse associated with an epee which they displayed in the 73rd minute.

Manning caught the ball deep in his own half to accelerate deep into Keswick territory before drawing in the last defender and then passing to Forrest to administer the coup de grace with a peach of a try converted from wide on the left by the graceful boot of Briggs.

But the final sentence belonged to the forwards as they joined forces for a four wheeled drive towards Keswick’s line.

Prop Alex Preston, who has made a most promising start to the season, full of energy and endeavour regardless whether he is in the starting line up or is on the bench, dived dramatically over the line for his second try of the season, Briggs again pummelled the ball over from a difficult angle for the extras.