MARCH came in like a lamb, but down on Moss Farm there were few signs of tranquility out on the paddock for the second meeting between the two clubs this season.
Northwich began with the stiff wind at their backs but the opening quarter of an hour produced few fireworks just plenty of honest endeavour.
When a Northwich attack was held up 15 metres out from Vale’s line the visitors infringed but full-back Richard Dale pushed his penalty kick wide of the target from in front in the 17th minute.
In the 35th minute a piece of quick-thinking from Northwich ended with skipper Chris James nipping over for an unconverted try.
Fergus Owens, Ian Bird and James Hodder broke through the Northwich cover but defence was turned into attack by Mike Gallimore in a rare moment of quicksilver rugby from the backs.
With Northwich very much on the front foot they went further ahead in the second minute of injury time when Dale kicked a penalty goal.
Graham Robinson, Northwich’s number eight, was a towering presence throughout, almost made it to the line with a surge down the right early in the second half but the game quickly settled into the pattern of the first 40.
Vale appeared to have presented Northwich with the opportunity to plunder further points when first Hesketh was shown a yellow card in the 52nd minute and then eight minutes later Darren Wilson was ordered off after another yellow card.
Despite their lack of numbers a Vale attack resulted in a penalty which Neale Foster kicked. Unfortunately the Vale switched off and from the restart Northwich grabbed a try.
With Hesketh back in harness the Vale began to play the more purposeful rugby.
Ford stormed through the middle, Jimmy Moore put a penalty into touch and from five metres the Vale drove for the line; three times scrum followed penalties and with Wilson back in the driving seat a penalty try looked imminent as the penalty count rose against Northwich.
With nine minutes left hooker James was shown yellow as Vale’s momentum built.
Wilson was hauled down as he broke clear, but it was the Vale forwards who stoked the fire, swinging the Northwich pack around with one timely surge, Hodder almost slipped away but was bundled into touch in a rousing climax to a game that was full of honest endeavour in which Northwich’s iron framework stood the test without too many rivets popping.
Vale of Lune: N Foster, J Hodder, F Owens, I Bird (capt), A Macluskie, J Moore, D Wilson, J Hesketh, P Watson, M Hanson, L Ford, L Acton, S Wallbank, A Garnett, G Tudor.