VALE of Lune meandered their way to Bower Park on a crisp spring day but there was nothing leisurely in their approach in their final league game of the season against relegated Aspatria.
With a brisk, cool north easterly blowing in from the Solway, the Vale made all the early running towards the clubhouse on a well prepared playing surface, pinning Aspatria deep in their own half and swarming all over their 22.
After five minutes of pummelling the opposition by the forwards the breakthrough came.
Full-back Tom Carter slung a low, long pass to centre Jonty Higgin who managed to hold on to the ball around his ankles.
After a twirl or two he straightened up to flip a pass to Damon Hall.
The winger was quickly into his stride and sprinted away for a try converted by Carter.
The intensity continued when James Hodder chased down his kick ahead to catch his opposite number in possession.
From the resultant scrum the ball was moved across the back division, Hall was obstructed and the penalty was hoisted into touch for a 10 metre line-out.
The call code was deciphered correctly, everyone in the Vale’s pack surged forward with the ball carrier wrapped up somewhere in the middle.
Sam Wallbank, another Vale “young oldie”, claimed an unconverted try in the 11th minute.
Everything appeared to be going the Vale’s way but in the 17th minute they received a reminder what the consequences would be if they missed tackles or went walkabout.
Aspatria’s forwards bonded as a unit to drive the Vale backwards, with wing forward Lawrence Brown receiving the plaudits for an unconverted try.
One of Aspatria’s sponsors is a market leader for mattresses and certainly the Vale could not afford to slumber as the home side administered a timely wake up call.
The snooze button was cancelled immediately and for the second quarter the Vale rose from the land of nod, wiped any traces of sleep from their eyes and briskly went about their business.
In the 27th minute Wallbank went on a charge, nothing was going to stop him as he ran straight through a lone defender for a smartly taken try which Carter converted.
Eight minutes later a solid Vale scrum proved the base for a three-quarter move.
Stand-off Kieran Doyle kicked through, Hall was on to the ball in a flash to sprint away for an unconverted try.
As the half drew to a close James Hesketh was shown a yellow card for a, look no hands or arms but with plenty of shoulder and torso type of ‘tackle’, which was instantly condemned by referee Denver and the home supporters.
When play resumed Aspatria punished the Vale immediately when Jack Clegg nipped over for an unconverted try with two minutes left.
In the first minute of injury time Carter beautifully curled over a penalty goal to close the half out.
Aspatria piled on the pressure against the 14 man Vale but a resolute defence, well organised by skipper Darren Wilson, who along with Hall and Danny Lin helped to lift the siege.
Gradually Aspatria were driven away from the danger zone and any potential threat was dealt with, in particular by Harry Fellows who pulled off a number of text book tackles. As the game passed the hour mark the Vale went further ahead.
Andy Powers, sporting a Mario Balotelli hair style, crashed through the centre to link with Wilson.
Vale’s scrum half started on one of his “Weeble’s wobble but they don’t fall down” runs that ended with a try converted by Carter.
Vale’s sixth try belonged to Hall but James Hodder’s name was pencilled into the notebook.
Hall collected the ball deep in his own half and set off on a diagonal run towards the left wing.
Just when it appeared all the options were being exhausted he suddenly stepped inside and bolted in a straight line into Aspatria’s half.
He left the red-blacks trailing in his wake and just when a hat-trick seemed a formality he slid a pass to Hodder for an unconverted try in the 66th minute.
Hodder was the final try scorer when he rounded off a three-quarter movement which saw the ball shuttled across the line before he flew in at the corner, Carter adding the conversion with 10 minutes remaining.
Vale entertain recently crowned league champions Sandbach on Saturday, the game kicking-off at 2pm. On Wednesday evening the Vale travel to Fylde for a first round tie in the John Burgess Lancashire Cup, kick-off at 7.15pm.
Vale of Lune: T Carter, J Hodder (R Bowen 72), A Powers, J Higgin, D Hall, K Doyle, D Wilson (capt), J Hesketh, O Cowey, A Cowey, L Acton S Wallbank, H Fellows (S Chesney-Brown 67), D Lin, A Baines.