The Vale of Lune were made to work hard for a deserved victory at Widnes.
You did not have to look too far to identify the men of the hour or in the Vale’s case 80 minutes.
Wing forward Danny Lin and lock Sam Wallbank were outstanding, not only scavenging for the ball whenever it went loose, but winning line out ball with clean catches that made light of the conditions.
With Jimmy Moore and Jonty Higgin being unavailable there were problems surrounding who would don the number 10 jersey. Step forward James Hodder, usually to be found at full back or on the wing.
Vale’s leading try scorer did all that was asked of him, kicking intelligently and putting over the two match-winning penalties in the second half.
It was never going to be a day for Vale’s three-quarters to cavort about and after discovering that ball was elusive as a bar of soap in a bath opted for a more restrained approach in a game where clear-cut openings were at a premium.
After nearly 20 minutes of play that proved inconclusive between two-well matched sides the first clear-cut chance fell to Widnes but winger Kevin Leadbetter was off target with a penalty kick.
Although Widnes were to spend longer in Vale territory for the rest of the half they were unable to achieve the domination their occupation suggested.
Vale turned a scrum close to their line, both Lin and Wallbank led charges downfield, while James Curran aggressively wrestled the ball clear.
Widnes’ forwards went through the coaching manual ploys, line out, drive, recycle, inch forward, force a scrum but always the Vale’s discipline held, each and every player took responsibility as the home side’s attacks juddered to a halt.
At times Widnes were forced to move the ball wide but such ploys were always risky either because the ball was spilled or they fell prey to Vale’s avenging backs.
The pattern had been set and the second-half did not deviate too much from what had gone before.
Vale’s task was made harder when Alex Cowey was shown a yellow card after offering the referee some unsolicited advice in the 47th minute but two minutes later Hodder calmly kicked a penalty goal.
Vale’s pack crunched their way forward, ploughing deep into Widnes territory and winning a penalty which Hodder kicked in the 63rd minute.
Cool heads from the Vale denied Widnes any chances of establishing any bridgeheads as the game moved back and forth but the longer the game went on a six-point lead looked increasingly secure.
Late in the game Hodder saw a well-struck penalty kick slip by the right hand up right but at the final whistle the crowd applauded the efforts of both sets of forwards.
Following their victory the Vale remain in fourth place in North One West after the clubs above them all recorded bonus point victories.
Vale of Lune: N Royle, R Ward, S Moorby, D Haigh, J Curran, J Hodder, D Wilson (capt), A Cowey, P Berry, O Cowey, L Acton, S Wallbank, R Randall (A Powers 51), D Lin, G Tudor (B Charnley 71).