It might have been the end of the season, and a Wednesday evening, but it made no difference as both teams gave their all in a thundering, competitive encounter on a firm pitch at Kellett Road under the watchful eye of referee Peter Harrison who never let the proceedings get out of hand in a game bubbling with passionate rivalry.
Vale thwarted an early surge from a fired up vigorous Carnforth team to take the lead after five minutes when Lee Acton
peeled off a driving maul from a five metre line out for an unconverted try. Carnforth responded immediately and a passage of sustained played ended with Matthew Short thumping over a penalty goal in the eighth minute.
In a game of nip and tuck neither side was able to achieve any period of prolonged occupation in the respective red zone, the tackling was uncompromising if a times a little unorthodox.
The Vale extended their lead in the twenty fifth minute with a thrilling counter attack after a Carnforth move had swept imperiously into the Vale’s twenty two only for the ball to squirt free. Adam Macluskie
powered away, the lively Andy Muir
accelerated deep into Carnforth territory before releasing Rob Ward for a well taken unconverted try.
Ten minutes later the North Lancashire Division Two club hurtled back into contention with a deserved converted try. The Vale were put under sustained pressure and when John Edmundson embarked on a strong solo run he blasted through the Vale’s defence to touch down between the posts, Matthew Short converted and just before the half time whistle the number ten saw his long range penalty effort just fail to reach its target.
After an up-tempo half, both sides were ready for a half time breather and they needed it because the second half began with the same intensity as the first, the net result being that both hookers were sent to cool down in the bin after three minutes of uncompromising, hard rugby, that had Mr Harrison’s “Acme Thunder” working overtime.
Rolling subs were the order of the day and boy were they needed, as were the water carriers who shuttled to and fro as the game moved giddily from end to end. Some breathing space was afforded to the Vale when Matthew Crewdson kicked a penalty goal in the fifty fifth minute, but the game still hung in the balance and any tipping point was a long way off.
It became obvious that the longer the game went on that those players with a little more gas in their tanks would start to play an important role in the final quarter as a mazy run from Olly Cousins illustrated when he skipped through his former Vale colleagues.
As a highly entertaining game moved into the closing ten minutes the Vale struck. The versatile Tom Smith
had obviously benefited from his ten minute spell listening to the traffic noise from the nearby M6 when he completed a slick passing move that involved James Hodder
who was sporting his new white boots, and Ben Charnley
; Matthew Crewdson added the conversion.
Three minutes later James Hodder
threaded his way through for a try converted by Matthew Crewdson but Carnforth refused to throw in the towel and hit back immediately.
In the final sustained passage of rugby of the game Matthew Short made an electrifying break to set up a try for the rampaging Joe Harrison who blasted over to loud cheers in front of his supporters. Olly Cousins nonchalantly drop kicked the conversion but there was no time left for another Carnforth flourish.
The Vale retained the Shield in a game high in endeavour, commitment and fervour, qualities that Andrew Crowe would have certainly approved of.
Carnforth: O Cousins; S Tomlinson, J Edmundson (Capt), J Harrison, P Metcalfe; M Short, G Barton; D Winning, D Hones, S Hodgson; L Launders, J Greenland; C walker, D Blenkham, J Short. Replacements: G Rich, A Seaton, A Albiston, C Albiston, J Wilson, J Edmundson
Vale of Lune A: M Crewdson; R Muir, R Ward, A Macluskie, D Fletcher; A Garnett (Capt), J Whyke; M Kitchen, T Smith, J Skivington; B Wilkinson, A Foxcroft; B Charnley, L Acton, G Glennon. Replacements: J Reeves J Hodder, J Hickling.