Altrincham Kersal 18-18 Vale of Lune
Vale of Lune drew their first North One West fixture since the honours were shared at Widnes in March 2015 in a game that ended twenty two all.
Overall, a draw was a fair result at Stelfox Avenue in an absorbing contest played at a healthy lick.
Both sides enjoyed long spells of territorial dominance but with defences generally on top few clear cut chances emerged, but on the evidence of the home side’s performance it was difficult ascertain why they have endured such a difficult season, having recorded only four victories.
Vale made a blistering start, pinning Altrincham deep in their own half for long periods.
Billy Swarbrick set the wheels in motion when he hotfooted away from a quickly taken tap penalty but he unselfishly passed inside rather than going for glory himself.
Jonty Higgin made a strong break as Altrincham scrambled to protect their line. Eventually the breakthrough came in the 18th minute when skipper Dan Baines touched down for an unconverted try after prolonged pressure.
This was underscored in the 22nd minute when the Vale were caught offside, stand off Jack Emerson kicked the resultant penalty to ignite the fires within the home side who began to achieve the dominance that the Vale had enjoyed in the opening quarter.
In the 26th minute Altrincham went into the lead with a try fashioned by the forwards.
A penalty was tapped into touch and from a five metre line out a surge was generated which allowed lock Paul Mallaband to grapple his way over, Emerson added the conversion.
Tom Slater kicked a penalty for the Vale but the second quarter definitely belonged to Altrincham and they increased their lead with an Emerson penalty on half time.
Altrincham’s fires had not been dampened by the half time break and within two minutes of the restart they went further ahead.
After a couple of five metre line outs Altrincham put together a coordinated heave, the Vale struggled to find any purchase against Altrincham’s four wheel drive and were unable to prevent the armour plated Paul Mallaband collecting his second try which went unconverted.
Shortly after the Altrincham score the Vale started to stir, Swarbrick linked with Jordan Fern in a move that signalled the start of Vale’s fight back as Altrincham started to falter.
The forwards began to pile into the rucks and mauls with more aggression and such was their ferocity that when they trapped Altrincham the ball flirted away into no man’s land.
The first to react was Sam Wallbank who swept up the ball to sprint 30 metres for a classic opportunists try in the 57th minute, although Damon Hall was off target with his conversion.
Altrincham were given little respite as the Vale hunted for further points.
Forwards and backs combined with slick efficiency in the build up to the final score.
Nothing fancy or over elaborate was tried, a simple equation of pass, pass, drew in the cover to create space for Jordan Fern to touch down for an unconverted try with seven minutes remaining.
Few chances from either side were created during the final minutes of what had been a physically taxing encounter and all looked out on their feet at the end but all involved had given it their best shots and perhaps a share of the spoils was a prize worth coveting.
Vale are without a North One West fixture on Saturday, they resume their programme with a home game against second in the table Birkenhead Park on January 28.