Carlisle 13-12 Vale

Tom Crookall at speed.
Tom Crookall at speed.

It was late in the game when Vale conceded their 16th penalty of a feisty encounter and when the ball went between the uprights it gave Carlisle a narrow victory as well as a lifeline in their battle to avoid end of season relegation.

The Vale faithful who had made the long journey to Silloth - where Carlisle are playing some ‘home’ games whilst their own flood damaged pitches are being restored - could only ponder what might have been had their team not given away so many penalties.

But there was so little to chose between the sides that victory could have gone either way in a game played on a pitch that was in remarkably good condition considering the weather of late

Indeed Vale might have won when they themselves were awarded a penalty almost on he half way line. Jack Turton gave the ball a mighty thump, but the range was just too much, the ball dropping short.

Most of the damage to Vale occurred in the opening 20 minutes when they seldom got their hands on the ball and were harassed and battered by the opposition forwards.

Such was the ferocity of the Carlisle pack that they drove over from a line-out for Matt Davis to score their first try and followed this up by pushing Vale backwards and over their line for number eight James Addyman to score the second.

This was certainly not what Vale had expected and it was quickly obvious it was time to regroup. Experienced former captain Sam Wallbank provided some inspiration and with great support from Adam Foxcroft and Tom Cvijanovic the trio led the fightback.

Vale were now winning some ball and it was the Cumbrians who had to backpedal and defend against some forceful play from the Lancaster team.

Vale’s ever dependable scrum-half Andy Powers was also beginning to make more of a contribution and he had a hand in outwitting his opposition to send Wallbank crashing over for Vale’s opening try.

A second from Adam MacLuskie and a conversion from Jack Turton ensured that Vale held the narrowest of interval leads.

The second half was pretty much the same as the first with neither side gaining much advantage.

As both sides tried to break the stalemate, Tom Crookall looked Vale’s best bet with several determined charges in midfield, but too often the ball was lost and possession given away. It was a similar tale for Carlisle who had plenty of willing ball carriers, but no one with the creative ability to open up the Vale defence.

In the end it was a stupid and unnecessary high tackle that settled the matter and provided stand off Robbie James with the easiest of chances to put over the match winning penalty.

Vale can take some heart from Saturday’s defeat. They picked up a losing bonus point and they blooded some promising youngsters in what turned out to be a tough and testing battle.

The likes of Alec Preston, Sam Hoare, Wayne Blythe and Elliot Horner impressed in the patched up Vale team and it will not be too long before they will be joining other young players like Aiden Yates and Jack Ayrton as regular first teamers.