THE first Saturday of April was a rumbustious affair at Powderhouse Lane that erupted in a handbag flailing free-for-all in the final minutes which saw Jimmy Moore being shown a yellow card and some rather fruity verbal exchanges on the East Terrace between the Vale of Lune supporters and the visitors’ coaching staff.
In bright sunshine the Vale’s opening matched the weather conditions, the ball was moved confidently around and after two minutes a some swift passing provided winger Alistair Richards with time and space to score an unconverted try.
Seven minutes later the Vale launched an attack after hooker Phil Watson had taken the first of his three balls against the head.
The Vale flowed down field with the Wirral defence stretched, and when the angle of attack was switched Ian Bird went careering over, Jimmy Moore added the conversion.
Fergus Owens made one of his languid breaks, Bird was held up short and both James Curran and James Hodder used their pace to good effect.
Prop Phil Jackson pulled off an important tackle at the end of the first quarter as Wirral started to threaten.
Vale’s inability to close down runners at source cost them dear when they allowed stand-off James Annetts the freedom of the park, winger Matt Slater touched down for a try converted by centre Danny Harvey in the 21st minute.
With six minutes of the half remaining Wirral struck again when a kick into Vale’s 22 caused problems and while two defenders dithered, Harvey snatched up the ball to go over unopposed and also to add the conversion.
To their credit the Vale recovered their composure and as the game slipped into stoppage time they retook the lead.
From a line-out the move slickly went to the right, Owens flipped a subtle pass to Richards who kicked up his heels for his try, converted by Moore.
In a dramatic start to the second half Harvey collected the ball and set off on solo run that exposed some woeful tackling for a try after 40 seconds, which he converted.
Shortly after Moore kicked a penalty goal but in the 47th minute Harvey completed a deserved hat-trick after the Vale’s defence had been shredded again, the pumped up centre putting over the conversion.
Moore chipped away at Wirral’s lead with a couple of penalties and in the 55th minute he brought the Vale level after a period of sustained pressure.
Around the hour mark the Vale began to play the more purposeful rugby, but unfortunately errors began to creep into their game.
In the 65th minute Owens was held up short but the Vale were awarded a penalty and decided to go for the three points, Moore duly obliged to give the home side the lead.
As the game entered the closing 10 minutes the outcome was far from certain and the waters were muddied even further when Annetts dropped a goal to level the scores to set up a combustible finale.
A drained looking Vale side hung on. Wirral ran the ball from their dead ball line to within 10 metres of Vale’s goal line and a couple of Wirral speculative drop goals went wide before everything boiled over.
Vale of Lune: J Hodder (A Macluskie 66), J Curran, F Owens, I Bird, A Richards, J Moore, D Wilson, P Jackson (A Morrison 54), P Watson, M Hanson, L Ford, D Perry (capt), S Wallbank, D Lin (B Charnley 52), A Garnett.
Match Sponsor: Friends of the Vale.
Match Ball Sponsor: Border Asset Management.