Broughton Park 20-22 Vale of Lune
Following the postponement of the original fixture on October 26 when the ground at Broughton Park was waterlogged the Vale of Lune were making their first visit Houghend Crescent since March 2016.
On that day, the cherry and whites completed a rare double over Broughton Park, 24-7, after winning at Powderhouse Lane earlier in a season where Broughton Park were relegated.
The last time Vale achieved the double over Broughton Park was in the 1999/2000 season.
Positive outcomes on Broughton Park’s hallowed turf have not been easy to achieve and in the last 12 meetings Vale have only managed to record four victories, but in the 2010/11 season after a loss at Houghend they did have the satisfaction of defeating Broughton Park in the final of the Lancashire Trophy 32-22 at Sedgley Park.
Broughton Park, through the long arches of time, could never be considered a happy hunting ground for Vale whether on the old bear pit of an arena at Chelsford Grove or their spanking new home at Houghend.
A large number of Vale players can recall vividly some horrendous hammerings, in particular those grisly New Year’s Day dust ups at the Grove.
Broughton Park, from the 1950s onwards, were able to call upon the services of tough, talented, battled hardened formidable warriors, who wore the black and white hooped jerseys with pride, many of the went onto collect international honours.
But time marches on and both clubs are perhaps not the powerhouses they once were but this latest arm wrestle did not disappoint in particular if you enjoy edge of your seats, with an underlying layer of nervous energy rugby, then this encounter ticked all the boxes.
At the final whistle,Vale had not only collected a try bonus point but they had won their first league away game since April 7, 2018 when they defeated Warrington, 72-24.
Victory was fashioned around Vale’s hard working, unselfish pack, whose members contributed all the tries.
Overall the game reflected the relative positions in the league with both clubs conscious that they were in danger of being distanced from those above them while keeping a beady eye on those below them because a winning streak could dramatically alter the agenda.
However, Vale secured a vital victory ahead of some challenging games looming up, it is important for them to pass the half way mark in a relatively safe position and their five pointer at Houghend lifted the clouds.
Due to injuries and unavailability the centre positions were taken up by two of Vale’s versatile forwards, skipper Andy Powers and Callum Kyle, but this duo performed admirably and popped up in the most unlikely areas and could not help plunging in where the action was at its most intense.
On the way to Broughton Park, Vale’s coach was sandwiched in a rolling road block and in the opening minutes of the game they were blinded by the blue lights that were flashing in their direction.
In the third minute they conceded an unconverted try when a quick exchange of passes created space for Adebayo Tititaloye to go screaming over.
Park were setting the pace, calling all the shots and giving Vale’s defenders a serious going over but the barriers held firm.
Only rarely were Vale able to venture out of their own half, one such sortie ended with a blue on blue catastrophe when a pass was intercepted by Josh Maddocks who had a clear run to the line without any need to switch on the sirens, for an unconverted try.
Hopes began to rise as the game moved into the second quarter when following a kick and chase by prop James Hesketh, Vale gained an important chunk of Park real estate.
From a line out the forwards combined to shunt their opposite number back which allowed hooker Harm Dokter to ferret his was over for his first try since making his debut in the opening game of the season, stand-off Alex Briggs saw his well struck conversion hit an upright but failed to glance over.
Suddenly, Vale began to play with increasing confidence, Scott Manning at full back, who has been unavailable for the last three games, showed what a dangerous player he can be when he instinctively runs from deep, when he catapulted away on an exciting dash.
Although Park applied pressure in the closing minutes of the half the Vale were equal to the task, they remained composed without conceding any more points and in the second minute of the second half they took the lead.
Jack Ayrton, on the day he announced his engagement, set up, with a thundering run, and finished off the move with a sparkling try converted by Alex Briggs.
But there was little time for the Vale to savour their lead because four minutes later, with the mercury beginning to drop, their lack of concentration and protection of the ball allowed Maddocks to scuttle over for a try converted by Marcus Eaton.
Shortly after a Park player was red carded the game was halted because on a nearby football pitch a player had suffered a heart attack and both physios went off to offer their assistance until the emergency services arrived.
Once the game resumed Vale made full use of their extra player when following a well regimented forward drive, man of the match No.8 James Robinson, went pelting over for an unconverted try with space outside him in the 56th minute to level the scores.
Eaton kicked a long penalty goal in the 63rd minute to sow some seeds of doubt about the outcome but Vale played to their strengths, nothing outrageous was attempted and eventually their single mindedness brought its reward with another forward inspired try.
A Vale scrum edged its way towards Park’s line and at the opportune moment Robinson unhitched himself to collect an unconverted try.
The closing minutes were blanketed with apprehension, the result hung in the balance. Scott Manning pulled off a vital tackle, Ike Eastwood almost broke away when he caught the ball in full flight, threw in a summersault for good measure before being hauled down.
A late Park penalty was off target accompanied by audible sighs from Vale contingent on the balcony but with time running out Park threw caution to the wind to run the ball from everywhere but Vale successfully shut down every move.
On the day before Advent Sunday Vale opened the door early on their calendar to collect a precious gift and with two more games to come before the Christmas break they will hoping for more goodies.