Vale of Lune played their first away fixture since October 7 on Saturday, beating Manchester 33-19 at Grove Park in a victory that saw them also pick up a try bonus point.
The top of the table Vale looked a tad ring rusty which was not totally unexpected after their mini break.
However, there were flashes of Vale’s potential and although not firing on all cylinders they always had enough in their tank to stay ahead of a Manchester side that offered stout resistance and a willingness to take the game to the visitors.
Vale quickly unlocked the home side’s defence with a blistering five minutes straight from the whistle.
Evan Stewart made an early charge, Chris Ramwell cut back inside before centre Jordan Dorrington opened the scoring with a fourth minute unconverted try when he raced down the left following a solid scrum
Manchester forced the Vale on the defensive but when one of their attacks broke down Jordan Dorrington pounced to launch a swift counter attack which was finished off comprehensively by Damon Hall with an unconverted try in the 12th minute.
The home side produced passages of adventurous rugby that pegged the Vale back and in the 26th minute their efforts were rewarded.
Following prolonged pressure and a serious examination of the Vale’s defensive network Harry Noar touched down for a try converted by Doug Day.
Despite having Harry Fellows shown a yellow in the 34th minute the Vale ended the half as they had begun it.
A powerful forward surge led by Ross Pillow and supported by Tom Cvijanovic forced Manchester to concede a penalty which Hall slotted over and just before the half time whistle Stewart almost made the line.
Early in the second half Vale’s pack heaved Manchester back at a set scrum, Hall kicked the resultant penalty from 35 metres out.
Seven minutes later the Vale went further ahead when winger Olly Jacques topped and tailed a flowing attack packed with slick passes.
Hall added the conversion to provide the Vale with a comfortable 16-point lead early in the second period.
It was all very quiet in the ‘Pacemakers Stand’ but in the 55th minute the Vale increased the heart beat for their supporters with the arrival of the try bonus point.
Hooker Andy Powers is full of bustling energy in every game he plays, his efforts go largely unnoticed but he fully deserved his first try of the season when he took an inside pass off Hall to add five points to the total.
Manchester came back strongly and on the hour mark winger Harry Lewis, who had looked dangerous throughout, scored an unconverted try.
Three minutes later the Vale responded with an unconverted try when following a sold scrum centre Fergus Owens powerfully broke through a number of tackles on his way to a classy score.
There was still enough time for Manchester to remind the Vale that they could not afford to switch on their cruise control when scrum half, Matt Beasley, darted over for a converted try with eight minutes remaining.
Vale were forced to work hard to deny Manchester a try bonus point in a contest that went a long way to blowing way some of the cobwebs that had accumulated following a period of inactivity.
Next up for Dan Williams’ league leaders is a clash with Carlisle, the Cumbrians making the trip to Powderhouse Lane on Saturday.