Vale 20-16 Liverpool St Helens

Captain Darren Wilson passing the ball. Vale of Lune v Liverpool St Helens
Captain Darren Wilson passing the ball. Vale of Lune v Liverpool St Helens

On the day in history when president elect Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington on February 23, 1861, one hundred and fifty two years later the Vale of Lune also wrote their names into the ledger of time by recording their first ever double over Liverpool St Helens.

In reaching this milestone the Vale also ended Liverpool St Helens unbeaten record of nine away wins in North One West and knocked them off the top of the league table.

Phil Berry moved up from the bench to produce a high energy performance, while Tom Smith, who was due to play for the Vikings, stepped up as a front row replacement but in a tense game the services were not required of this big hearted player.

The backs tended to cancel each other out and few chances came former Liverpool player Nick Royle’s way, centre David Haigh continued to impress, Jonty Higgin played with growing confidence at stand off after he had eased himself into the role at Manchester the previous week.

But on the day the glittering star of the backs was skipper Darren Wilson who always knows that a Liverpool St Helens’ reception committee will be waiting for him with open arms.

This time he gave them the slip in dramatic style with a solo try in the second half to propel the Vale to victory.

Early in the game Charnley was helped off to have his nose attended to as Liverpool made all the early running but a first half pattern was beginning to emerge that the respective defences would be difficult to breach.

After missing with a sixth minute penalty for the visitors stand off Greg Smith made amends with a successful effort in the thirteenth minute.

This score added as a wakeup call for the Vale and they responded with a number of promising probing attacks.

Sam Wallbank launched an attack when he flicked the ball between his legs in a move involving full back James Hodder.

Haigh swirled through the Liverpool defence after a break from Higgin and a possible score beckoned. Liverpool defended in depth but in the twenty eighth minute they stretched their lead when Smith kicked his second penalty after the Vale had infringed trying to halt a drive.

But with six minutes remaining of a half where clear cut scoring opportunities were few and far between Hodder kicked a penalty goal for the Vale and the half ended with a flurry of activity from both sides that involved a dart from Wilson after he had collected a wayward kick.

In the second minute of the second half Smith kicked a penalty and suddenly Liverpool’s platform for victory seemed more secure in what had all the prospects of being a close game.

Everything changed in the fifty third minute when the Vale snatched the lead.

Vale’s forwards started to crank up the momentum; Liverpool began to retreat as the drives became more and more concerted and then they had lock forward Dave Westhead sent to the sin bin.

Suddenly the whole tenor of the game began to drift in the home side’s favour.

Three powerful Vale scrums had Liverpool scrambling and splintering, referee Riley’s patience was eventually exhausted and he awarded the Vale a 
penalty try which Hodder converted.

On the hour mark Wilson exploded with a thirty five metre scuttle, bouncing off tackers and selling a perfect dummy to a lone defender for an individual try of the highest quality, a fact that was not lost on his teammates who lifted him to the skies in celebration in the one for all, all for one philosophy that is becoming an increasing part of the squad’s DNA.

Hodder added the conversion and then featured in a flowing attack which involved Royle, but in the thirty seventh minute the Vale saw their lead reduced to a single point.

Former Vale centre Neil Hull carved a huge hole in the Vale’s middle before releasing winger Matt Cunliffe for a try converted by Smith.

Vale’s nerves were settled in the eightieth minute when Hodder coolly kicked a forty metre penalty goal.

Liverpool threw everything at the Vale in the closing minutes but the home side remained steadfast, composed and disciplined and when Charnley poached a Liverpool line out ball in his twenty two to power his way out of defence he had his fellow players piling in behind him, when the danger had receded they formed a congratulatory back slapping posse around him without any thoughts for the condition of the number eight’s hooter.

Liverpool launched one desperate final attack from deep in their own half but when they attempted to progress down the blind side they ran into a formidable road block in the shape of Alex Cowey and the move ground to a halt.

Vale completed a sporting treble after the England cricketers had wrapped up the one day series in New Zealand in Auckland, at Twickenham the England team had seen off ‘Les Bleus,’ and while they are remarkable achievements on the world stage it will be the Vale of Lune’s victory against Liverpool St Helens that has brought the most satisfaction to the players and supporters, and made it day to remember for hooker Andy Powers, who was making his fiftieth appearance.

Vale of Lune: J Hodder; N Royle, S Moorby (A Macluskie 40), D Haigh, R Ward; J Higgin, D Wilson (Capt); A Cowey, A Powers, P Berry; L Acton, S Wallbank (R Randall 68); G Tudor, D Lin, B Charnley (R Randall 3) (B Charnley 34).

Match Sponsors: Friends of the Vale