Whitehaven 12-29 Vale of Lune

Vale of Lune's James Hesketh.
Vale of Lune's James Hesketh.

For their first ever visit to Whitehaven the Vale of Lune assembled a squad of 25 players containing a number of familiar faces with a proven track record.

Prop James Hesketh was making his 100th appearance in contrast to 11 who were making their debut in a game that was far from a stroll in the park.

As was predicted the Cumbrians were strong and resilient so for long periods the Vale found themselves involved in some rather tasty arm wrestling interludes which provided their forwards with a meaningful work out.

A young lively Vale back division had a number of opportunities to show their paces, their spirit of adventure was to be applauded, and as a unit they constantly backed themselves, even from deep in their own 22.

The encounter has given coach Fergus Owens and director of rugby Phil Stott food for thought ahead of a second pre-season at home against Stoke on Trent on Saturday.

However, they have a major concern about the injury sustained to Ben Dorrington which had all the worrying signs associated with damage to the medial collateral ligament, which if confirmed could rule him out for the bulk of the coming season.

It was the unlucky Dorrington who crossed for Vale’s opening try after 15 minutes when he intercepted at pass to race powerfully away on a 40-metre dash to touch down between the posts to make his conversion a formality.

Vale’s second try was instigated by a fired up Ian Bird, who was returning to the colours after a two-year sabbatical.

The centre angled a chip into the corner and while the home side’s defenders hesitated the perceptive Scott Manning seized the ball to score an unconverted try wide out on the right.

Whitehaven’s forward pressure was duly rewarded with a seven-pointer from close range before the Vale ended the half with a thrilling try.

The ball was moved confidently, crisply and quickly across the back line in a move that ended with full back Rob Lamerton, a player who had shone in the A team last season, scorching over for a try converted by Ollie Dobson.

There was similar panache on show for Vale’s opening score of the second half. Dan Baines made a powerful break, again the ball was transferred briskly crossfield for centre Chris Weeks to sprint away for an unconverted try.

For long periods the Vale were compressed deep in the own half, but their tackling was spot on, they tracked every Whitehaven move and their line was only breached once more.

Vale’s enterprise, they preferred to run the ball rather than punt it away into touch, always made them dangerous on the counter attack as their final try illustrated.

Almost from nowhere the Vale were sweeping downfield in a move that was completed by Billy Swarbrick, who danced his way between the posts. The extras were denied the Vale because the referee signalled time before the kick was taken.

Vale of Lune: R Lamerton, C Weeks, A Macluskie, I Bird, S Manning, B Dorrington, H Bartle, O Dobson, J Squirrel, A Swarbrick, P McLaren-Dorrington, J Stevens, J Hesketh, R Pillow, S Foy, G McSporran, D Baines, P Berry, M Gardner, D Rainford, H Fellows, A Foxcroft, S Wallbank, A Baines, J Aryton, M Barker.