Even though the season is drawing to a close these two teams gave it their all under a blazing sun,
Report by Stuart Vernon, photos by Tony North
The Six Nations have been safely packed away into the history books the North One West season is drawing to a close but there are a numbers of issues to be resolved at either end of the table, but for those in the middle they are on the outside of the relegation and promotion tent looking in.
Such is the case for the Vale of Lune and Leigh with three games to play after their meeting at Round Ash Park. Both could have a shout as regards which of the clubs above them claims the play off slot because the Vale are at home on Saturday against Widnes and Leigh are travelling to Liverpool St Helens on the same day.
As regards relegation issues the outcome of the Vale’s visit to Aspatria on April 14 is unlikely to stop the Cumbrians plunging through the trap door but Leigh’s trip to Wigton on the final Saturday of the season could perhaps be crucial to Wigton’s survival.
Although the two clubs that faced each other on a brilliantly sunny day were unconcerned about the battle for promotion and relegation this was no end of season walk in the park. It was a fiercely competitive encounter on a perfect playing surface that ended with a Vale try bonus point victory and only their third win on the road this season in North One West.
Selection had been delayed because of injuries and unavailability and Vale’s eventually lined up with a number of second team stalwarts in their ranks and they all contributed to a hard earned victory. Lee Farnworth made a massive contribution in the second row, firing up those around him with his infectious enthusiasm. Stand off Kieran Doyle played with confidence as did winger Rob Ward and both fully deserved their tries in a resilient Vale performance that saw prop Mark Hanson making his first start since September 17.
Leigh made all the early running as the Vale struggled to clear their lines and in the fourth minute the home side took the lead when prop Steve Millard barged his way over from close range, Tom Foreshaw added the conversion.
Three minutes later the Vale were back on level terms with a sparkling try that matched the weather. Andy Powers and Darren Wilson exchanged passes before Darren Wilson exploded on one of his ground hugging runs that sent him careering through Leigh’s defence. Kieran Doyle came up on his elbow to take a pass and race clear for his try converted by Tom Carter.
Vale began to move the ball around as their backs started to exploit any gaps. A break involving Kieran Doyle and Jimmy Moore created space for James Hodder to race away only to stop in his tracks because the referee had spotted a forward pass.
The Vale were certainly running hot and in the twentieth minute they went into the lead. James Hesketh was lurking with intent when a Leigh attack approached half way; he timed his run to perfection, inserting himself between the passer and receiver to snaffle the ball and trot away. A forty metre dash might have been within the prop’s range but he opted to off load to Rob Ward who collected a dipping pass around his ankles on his way to his first senior try which Tom Carter converted.
Two Forshaw penalty goals completed the first half scoring in what had been a far from sedentary forty minutes and left the outcome hanging in the balance.
Vale rather shot themselves in the foot in the opening minutes of the second half when following Hesketh’s departure to the sin bin Leigh took immediate advantage with a forty seventh minute unconverted try from winger Adam Dyson.
Leigh were unable to fully capitalise on the visitor’s predicament because in the fiftieth minute Tom Carter kicked a penalty goal after Jimmy Moore had scorched through the centre. Sam Wallbank left the action to loud applause, suffering from a dead leg and his replacement Oli Cowey was quickly in the thick of the action helping to thwart a dangerous forward thrust from Leigh close to Vale’s goal line.
Vale’s enterprising backs were on the lookout throughout the game to cut loose and in the sixty fourth their pace proved too much for a stretched Leigh defence. Again Darren Wilson was the main instigator hurtling through the cover, Kieran Doyle chipped ahead and suddenly Jimmy Moore was scampering after the ball for a try converted by Tom Carter with fifteen minute remaining.
Leigh were still within touching distance and it took a top drawer, all enveloping tackle, from Darren Wilson to stop what appeared to be a try scoring opportunity before Vale collected their fourth try and a bonus in the seventy second minute.
Danny Lin, an ace forager, had won the ball on the ground in the Vale half, to set up an attack. Jimmy Moore hacked the ball deep into unguarded Leigh territory and James Hodder gave chase. One solitary Leigh defender, Hodder and the referee all set off in pursuit. James Hodder, who is fully prepared to back himself against anyone quickly shot into the lead and just as the ball reached the limits of the dead ball area he pounced leopard like for an unconverted try.
As the game moved into injury time Leigh battled hard for a losing bonus point and compressed the Vale deep in their twenty two. It was a case of all Vale hands to the pumps but unfortunately their task was made much harder when Jimmy Moore was initially shown a yellow card for what referee Clark had deemed deliberate knock on in the red zone. Jimmy Moore argued his case too forcibly for the match official and was issued with a second yellow which quickly became red.
Vale survived an uncomfortable few minutes to complete the double over Leigh on an afternoon where residents in the neighbouring houses were firing up the lawn mowers, rearranging the patio furniture and giving the sun loungers an airing on the eve of British Summer Time.