AFTER an alert Andrew Garnett had nipped over for the Vale of Lune’s second try with eight minutes of the first half remaining a spectator on the East Terrace suggested that some champagne moments were about to follow.
Unfortunately this was not a cork popping game, there were some bubbling effervescent moments but for long periods there was little fizz about.
Vale attempted to carry the game to Sandbach but they were unable to discover the fluidity that would enable them to breakdown a resolute defence.
In addition, in their anxiety to register an early score passes were dropped and some the passing movements were too lateral, with space being compressed.
When the Vale did open their account it was courtesy of a slashing cross field run by Ian Bird.
Bird’s endeavours gave winger James Curran the opportunity to underline what a clinical finisher he is with an unconverted try in the 16th minute.
This score liberated and relaxed the Vale who started to play in a more measured way.
Sam Wallbank was at his rampaging best throughout and in the 20th minute he pulled off a tackle that must be a candidate for the tackle of the season award when he took Sandbach’s tight head prop amidships to send his far more bulky opponent crashing over the touchline.
James Hodder set off on one of his heart-in-the-mouth mazy runs from deep. Bird, as an extra forward dug the ball out.
Darren Wilson went corkscrewing between opponents’ legs as the Vale went about their business with all the urgency of a customer searching for a bunch of roses in a florist’s shop ahead of Valentine’s Day.
Garnett’s try reflected the wing forward’s quick thinking.
Under pressure Sandbach tried to clear their lines but the ball ricocheted off a defender’s leg towards their goal line.
Garnett collected the ball with one sweeping movement, turned round and sprinted over for an unconverted try.
Vale began the second half as though the half-time isotonic drinks had been laced with a spot of bubbly. From their own goal line Jimmy Moore launched an attack that ended with Alistair Richards being bundled into touch on half way.
The expected early breakthrough did not materialise, so the pragmatic Moore kicked a penalty goal in the 52nd minute to ensure the Vale came away with points after period of occupation in Sandbach territory.
In–form hooker Phil Watson took a scrum against the head as the Vale increased the pressure on the Cheshire side.
In the 56th minute Curran raced into Vale’s deep dead ball area to collect a delicate, deadly accurate kick from Moore, for his sixth try of the season from six appearances Moore added the conversion from a difficult angle from the left.
But before the Vale could start handing round the canapes, Sandbach upset their tray. Rather than clearing their lines Vale indulged in a little over elaboration in their own half.
When Sandbach spotted that Mr Complacency had made an appearance for the home side they moved the ball quickly to the wide open spaces for winger Richard Murray to race between the posts for a try.
There was a long delay while a kicking tee was transferred from the touchline but in the end it made no difference because Wilson shot off the goal line like a greyhound to charge the kick down.
This score gave Sandbach a huge boost because they stared to play like a side that sensed a few more goodies might be on offer, but the Vale recognised the need to concentrate.
Moore spotted the danger when he covered a break, replacement Danny Lin became effective at close quarters and another forward replacement, Alex Morrison, brought fresh legs to the scrum for the final 10 minutes.
The much–coveted try bonus point was banked by the Vale in the 74th minute after a period of sustained pressure in Sandbach’s 22.
A five–metre scrum had the visitors on the retreat and as the situation went into melt down a melée ensued.
When referee Barnard ensured that the handbags had all been packed away he issued a yellow card to Wallbank and his opposite number, before awarding the Vale a try.
After the smoke had settled Bird was conformed as the try scorer and Moore added the conversion.
A late flurry of penalties against the Vale ended with Sandbach collecting a consolation try scored by replacement Scott Hollins.
On Saturday the Vale entertain second in the table, title–chasing Altrincham Kersal and will be hoping to end a losing run of five games against the club from Stelfox Avenue in what is certain to be a testing North One West encounter.
Vale of Lune: J Hodder, J Curran (J Williams 60), F Owens, I Bird, A Richards, J Moore, D Wilson, J Hesketh, P Watson, M Hanson (A Morrison 70), L Ford, D Perry (capt), S Wallbank, A Garnett (D Lin 55), G Tudor.
Match sponsor: Friends of the Vale.
Match ball sponsor: Border Asset Management.