Altrincham Kersal recorded a six try victory over the Vale on Saturday to preserve their impressive unbeaten home record, but a thrilling second half rally from the Vale sowed visible seeds of doubt in the home side’s camp.
The game fitted the old sporting cliché of a game of two halves because Altrincham won the first forty convincingly 31-0, but the honours went to the Vale in the second stanza, 24-7, in an absorbing encounter.
Vale began purposefully, brimming with ideas and taking the game to Altrincham but they were unable to harvest any points from their early labours and in the 11th minute Altrincham struck a decisive blow when a series of Vale errors were punished.
A cross kick found winger Jack Wise, who went on to score a hat-trick, in acres of space to cross for an unconverted try.
In the 16th minute a well constructed threequarter move, packed with slick accurate passes ended with John Geddis touching down, his try being converted by Callum Yates.
Further tries were garnered in the 25th, 34th and 38th minutes by a rampant Altrincham with tries from Ryan Seetham and a brace from Wise, two being converted by Yates.
A first half without any points on the board did not look good for the Vale, but the half time team talk from coach Williams and skipper Sam Wallbank had the desired effect because two minutes into the half the Vale had points on the board.
Fergus Owens, who worryingly was forced to leave the action later in the half with a knee injury, ghosted through, delicately picking his line in a balanced and poised solo run for an unconverted try.
If the Vale had suddenly developed ideas above their station they were brought back to earth in the 49th minute when prolonged pressure by Altrincham’s forwards ended with a try from Jon Bishop converted by Yates.
Far from feeling sorry for themselves the Vale displayed great spirit and tenacity by adding to their total in the 53rd minute.
Sam Wallbank, who had an outstanding game, set off on one of his independently deceptive runs for a try converted by Ben Dorrington.
A thunderous tackle by Bird on Altrincham’s full back appeared to galvanise the Vale as they started to carve their way through what had earlier appeared as an impregnable defence.
Dorrington chased a kick and looked as though he had got fingertips to the ball, referee Mark Hinet ruled otherwise but did award the Vale a scrum.
A solid platform enabled Sam Wallbank to break from the base for an unconverted try in the 67th minute.
The try bonus point arrived in the 70th minute for the Vale when Sam Wallbank and Tom Cvijanovic swept down field with intent, Aryton completed the move with a try converted by Dorrington.
The cat was certainly among the pigeons at this stage.
Although a Vale victory was a tall order they pummelled their opponents relentlessly, Altrincham were struggling to repel the Vale but their nerve held until the final whistle.
For the Vale, Sam Wallbank was a colossus, ably supported by fellow forwards, Jack Ayrton, Andy Powers and Tom Cvijanovic in the loose.
Billy Swarbrick at number nine had a magnificent game, alert around the scrum, always looking for openings and directing operations with authority.
Ben Dorrington wielded the cutlass to Fergus Owens’ rapier in the centre, Jonty Higgin is maturing into an eloquent full back, while Ian Bird was a positive influence on those around him.