Widnes 34-21 Vale

THERE was to be no happy homecoming for Vale of Lune’s Coach, Paul Woodward, a former Widnes captain, as the visitors suffered their first defeat in league rugby at Heath Road since March 2001.

The stalemate was broken in the 13th minute when, following a line out, the Vale were awarded a penalty which Tom Carter kicked after missing the last four games with a leg injury.

Four minutes later a penalty for Widnes was converted by winger Kevin Leadbetter after the Vale’s backs were caught offside.

Gradually the Widnes forwards began to gain some dominance in the sets and because of their efforts they forced the Vale to concede a penalty in the 27th minute again kicked by Leadbetter.

A period of scrappy play ended with Carter kicking his second penalty with nine minutes of proper time remaining but the equilibrium was disturbed in the 36th minute when Widnes shot into the lead.

The home side’s backs were unleashed in a flowing attack that ended with full back Andy Riley scoring a graceful try converted by Leadbetter.

In an eight-minute period of injury time the Vale worked hard to get themselves back into the game.

From a line out the Vale compressed Widnes and when Jimmy Moore popped the ball into touch from a penalty for a second line out a rather ambitious line out call provided Widnes with the opportunity to scramble the ball to safety.

Vale made a disastrous start to the second half when a bobbling ball caused problems and before the danger signs could be appreciated Leadbetter scooted away for a cheeky try which he converted.

With the game drifting away from the Vale the visitors went on the attack and in the 50th minute their efforts were rewarded when Carter kicked a penalty goal.

Three minutes later another bouncing ball caused the Vale’s defenders to surrender to hypnosis and while they appeared transfixed Riley added to their unease with a try converted by Leadbetter.

Things were looking bleak for the Vale but their sense of adventure brought dividends in the 55th minute.

Chancing their arm from deep in their own half the ball was moved to the left when Tom Ball swiftly gathered pace.

He shot through the Widnes defence with a 60-metre dash of pure speed. Ian Bird was on hand to take the winger’s pass for a thrilling try, converted by Carter.

This score from nowhere inspired and boosted the Vale and in the 62nd minute they scored an unconverted try that was the sole property of the forwards.

From a ten-metre line out the Vale eight drove forward, whipped along by Lee Acton, legs pumping, backs bent, in a heaving movement that did not pause for breath.

Referee Daniels signalled a try and hooker Phil Berry claimed his first try for the Vale as his fellow forwards celebrated.

A six-point deficit did not appear to be an unbridgeable chasm for the Vale but in the 66th minute they failed to spot the danger posed by centre Dave Welsh when he cut through the middle.

As the Vale back pedalled, man of the match wing forward, Pie Liku, slipped through for a bonus point try, converted by Leadbetter.

In the closing minutes the Vale tenaciously set about trying to salvage a losing bonus point.

Ball scampered from twenty two to twenty two, penalties were put into touch, the forwards again turned up the heat, and Widnes remained calm as the storm broke around them.

Widnes calmly ran the clock down to record their fifth home win of the season and remain in third place.

Vale of Lune: T Carter, T Ball, A Powers (J Curran 66), I Bird, J Hodder, J Moore, D Wilson (capt), J Hesketh, P Berry, A Morrison, L Acton, S Wallbank, J Clarkson (A Baines 66), D Lin (D Perry 66), G Tudor.