Vale 56-29 Rochdale

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WITH hurricane Katia waiting in the wings the Vale of Lune produced a tornado of points in the opening home league game of the season.

At the centre of a whirling wind of tries was winger James Hodder who swept over for a well taken four, the first time he has achieved this feat at first team level since making his debut in the 2007/08 season.

He joined a long list of contenders for the man of the match award, including Lee Acton, Danny Lin, Gareth Tudor, Danny Wilson and full back Tom Carter, who contribution to the Vale’s cause was 21 points from six conversions and three penalty goals.

But the champagne went in the end to hooker Andy Powers who came in as a replacement for the injured Phil Watson. The number two produced a vigorous, comprehensive all round performance.

After the low wattage performance at Sandbach the Vale selectors identified areas of concern and made a number of positional changes in the back division. Wilson, after his outings at full back, returned to scrum half with Carter taking over at full back.

Jonty Higgin, on the wing in Cheshire, swapped pace with Kingsley Barker and the only change in the pack was the inclusion of Powers.

Vale’s overall performance brought the smiles back to their supporters’ faces, in particular those who had witnessed the goings on at Sandbach first hand.

A revitalised Vale took the lead in the second minute with a Carter penalty goal and 11 minutes later Hodder checked in the first of his four.

A forward drive produced quick ball ideal for Hodder to show a clean pair of heels. Carter added the extras.

After such a productive opening for the home side Rochdale began to steady the ship and in the 18th minute stand off Darren James kicked a penalty followed two minutes later by a 45 metre one from Carter which he stroked over with aplomb.

In the 22nd minute Wilson cut loose with a solo run that contained enough dance steps to book his place on Strictly. Carter converted but was off target with his attempt following Adam Macluskie’s try in the 27th minute.

Hodder’s sprint into the dead ball area, which all started with a Powers break, brought with it the try bonus point, Carter adding the conversion in 29th minute.

Rochdale came into the game in the closing eight minutes, their spirits being lifted by a try from winger James Flitcroft on the blind side in the 32nd minute and they completed the half purposefully.

This mood continued at the start of the second 40, pinning the Vale in their own half and beginning to find gaps in the home side’s defence.

Moore lifted the siege with a jinking run out of defence before angling a kick towards Hodder’s wing.

Hodder collected the ball at full throttle to outstrip the cover for a try converted by Carter from wide out in the left in the 47th minute.

A penalty goal from Carter edged the Vale towards the half century but this target was put on hold when Flitcroft latched onto an accurate cross kick to score a try unopposed which James converted in the 59th minute.

With the game losing a little of its direction Rochdale scored a try with four minutes of proper time remaining.

Winger Phil Cowburn barged his way over for the try, converted by James.

Two minutes later Hodder found himself in space and set off on a squirming run for his fourth, converted by Carter.

As the game edged into injury time replacement forward Tom Callaghan aquaplaned his way over for the try bonus point, converted by James, deserved reward for the visitors who had battled up to the final whistle to ensure they did not leave The Lane empty handed.

The magic half century was reached for the Vale when in the fifth minute of injury time replacement Owen Hughes shot between the posts after another break by Moore, Carter rounding off the day with a conversion.