Vale 19-20 Wirral

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Farewell. Adieu. Auf Wiedersehen, perhaps for the Vale of Lune’s flickering hopes of finishing in the top two of North One West, although a maximum five point haul from each of their remaining three league games could well put the cat among the pigeons but after their defeat at the hands of Wirral it looks distinctly like a long shot.

For the first time this season the Vale lost two league games on the bounce and it was a bitter pill to swallow after they had clawed themselves back into the game and established a two point lead with seven minutes left on the clock.

Holding a precarious lead it looked as though the Vale would have enough nous and experience in their ranks to hold out and control the game but in a dramatic moment of madness they threw it all away and with it their slender hopes of promotion.

A Wirral player was obstructed unnecessarily and referee Taylor awarded a penalty from where the offence took place or where the ball landed, which unfortunately was within range of the Vale’s posts.

Skipper Craig Harvey had no hesitation in calling for the kicking tee while marching towards the uprights.

It was a real pressure kick for the stand off into the strongly gusting wind but he duly completed his task without a trace of nerves to confirm the his side’s double over the Vale.

Almost before the large crowd had ventured forth into the ‘howling wind’, Wirral had put points on the board.

The ball was intercepted as the Vale tried to run the kick off clear by centre Chris Speed who slipped a pass to the unmarked Craig Harvey who went unopposed between the posts for his try which he converted inside the opening minute.

Vale struggled to gain a foothold in Wirral territory as they were constantly driven back by some accurate kicking from the visitors or swift dangerous counter attacks.

A number of promising Vale moves ground to a halt because the support was late in arriving and with Wirral being neat and tidy around the fringes they were quickly sent scurrying back into their home half.

In the 37th minute the long-awaited breakthrough came for Wirral after they had subjected the Vale to some prolonged pounding.

Eventually a gap appeared and over went number eight Rob Pearl for an unconverted try.

Vale began the second-half on a positive note. Nick Royle dashed out of defence with conviction and a pattern began to emerge for the home side, a number of dancing runs from the backs, plus some hustling by the forwards, but still putting boot to ball remained out of bounds.

In the 57th minute the Vale posted a deserved score when an exemplary forward drive ended with the exegetic Andy Powers, back on hooking duties, claimed an unconverted try beneath a pile of bodies.

Six minute later the Vale sustained a body blow to their ambitions when a break by Craig Harvey split their defence apart.

An overlap was created on the right, the Wirral ball carriers did not panic, they calmly drew in the cover before making space for lock Ryan Stead to go over for an unconverted try.

Twelve points adrift with 17 minutes to go it looked as though the Vale had missed the boat, but a jinking crossfield run from Moore from his own half heralded a period of the dominant rugby from the cherry and whites which left their supporters wondering why the engine had been reluctant to fire up.

When the ball reached Royle out on the right flank the full back smoothly accelerated away for a try converted by Jimmy Moore in the 70th minute.

Three minutes later the Vale went into the lead with another well-crafted try.

James Hodder hurtled down the left wing, David Haigh powerfully drove through tackles and when the move was halted a phalanx of Vale players protected the ball.

A rapid transfer to the right was carried out with the minimum of embroidery and when the galloping Royle received the ball there was only going to be one outcome as he curved his way behind the posts for a try that had been completed in a twinkling of an eye from its start to conclusion.

Just when it appeared the Vale had played their ‘get out of jail’ card and were edging towards victory the red mists came down and they were back behind bars with the key thrown away as Craig Harvey administered the coup de gras.

Vale of Lune: N Royle; J Hodder, J Higgin, D Haigh, S Moorby: J Moore, D Wilson (Capt); P Jackson (S Foy 73), A Powers, A Morrison; L Acton, S Wallbank; G Tudor, D Lin, B Charnley.

Match Sponsors: Handelsbanken and Cumbrian Properties

Match Ball Sponsor: Friends of the Vale