The re-arranged fixture caused selection problems but Joe and the boys rose to the challenge.
15 Chris Ramwell
14 Jordan Fern
13 Kyel Dempsey
12 Adam Boardman
11 Mark Bower
10 Kazir Aziz
9 Ryan Busby
1 Joe Bebbington
2 Rob O’ Brien (Capt)
3 Khalif Aziz
4 Kris Bishop
5 Stu Peters
6 Harm Dokter
7 Liam Houghton
8 James Mawdesly
Note the date of the game as the 23rd December, due to necessary re-arrangements this game against the West Park St. Helens side at their Redrocks Ground was always going to be a test. Joe Bebbington had spent hours getting a side together to travel.
Each and everyone of the lads who turned out deserve praise and thanks. Apart from the problems in getting a side together on arrival at the Club the mini bus refused to start so the lads piled into cars for the travel to the West Park Club. Fortunately the spirit in the side was not dampened.
Rob O’Brien put the lads through some strenuous warming up exercises, if nothing else to eliminate the tensions of a fraught journey. Kazir Azis brother entered the fray at prop, taking a break from his studies at St. Andrews University. Harm Dokter travelled up from Stoke after recessing for the Christmas holiday from Cumbria University a great effort from these two lads.
Chris Ramwell, James Mawdesley and Jordan Fern travelled to fill the side to the required XV. Chris and James were in the thick of it from the word go, and were mixing things impressively. Jordan Fern out on the wing was reduced in many ways to being a spectator as the passing was breaking down continually in midfield.
Clearly things were going to be difficult, they were under severe pressure in the scrums and Rob O’ Brien was having difficulty in taking the ball as the scrum moved backwards regularly. The West Park eight certainly had a physical advantage. Joe Bebbington and Aziz were under considerable pressure at prop, and Stu Peters and Kris Bishop were finding it difficult to put the squeeze on to tighten the scrum to prevent the pressure coming through. James Mawdseley at Number 8 was cleaning up under pressure illustrating his experience in this position. A retreating scrum will always prove difficult for the side under pressure and Harm Dokter and Liam Houghton at open side and blind side respectively were finding it difficult to provide support either in defence or attack.
Ryan Busby at scrum half was also having difficulties, scrum disruption will always cause problems for scrum halves. Ryan worked bravely round the base, and managed to produce some useful service to his fly half Kazir. The surprising thing is, is that the West Park side are so low in the League Division 2 North, they are a big physical side for this level of rugby.
The game opened with the Vale lads under pressure and after 10 minutes a swift move finishing with an incisive break produced the first score of the game with a converted try.
From the K.O. the Vale side swept up the field and were driving to the West Park line but were unable to break down the West Park defence.
At 25 minutes a break through the middle brought a further score for West Park which was again converted. The Vale side had travelled with a bare XV and West Park with a full compliment were ringing the changes, even at this stage sapping the energy of the Vale XV.
On 40 minutes another break through resulted in a try-conversion to completed the half for the West Park XV.
Chris Ramwell and James Mawdesley were in the thick of it throughout, Chris making some darting breaks from his regular full back position and James matching the physicality of the West Park eight with some forceful drives.
At 45 minutes and in the absence of Kyel Dempsey after a shoulder charge tackle, must say in sheer frustration, he was playing well at centre, West Park crossed for an unconverted try.. Again and in the absence of Kyel the West side crossed again for a converted try .
Mark Bower on the opposite wing to Jordan Fern was also lacking any ball and with Adam Boardman being called on in a continuous defensive role getting the ball out to either wings was proving difficult. Whilst Kyel was spending his time in the sin bin West crossed for two tries.
His return heralded a period of attacking rugby from the Vale XV and after a drive by Man of the Match Stu Peters through the middle and a link up to James M, Chris Ramwell in one of his most elusive runs went over for a converted try. Ryan Busby providing the conversion. after 55 minutes.
Were the West Park side tiring?- because again in the 69th minute a major drive by James Mawdesley resulted in a link up with Chris Ramwell, who was proving to be a difficult man to handle and Chris scored with the conversion failing.
At this stage the Vale side were visibly tiring and with West Park ringing the changes keeping their players fresh a further two converted scores completed the scoring.
Referee Neil Burdekin from the Liverpool Society and the West Lancashire Association refereed the game with understanding and helped the game to flow at all times. Thank you to Neil.
All the Vale lads deserve a vote of thanks from the Club and note one or two had travelled to complete the full XV. On this performance they will certainly move away from the lower reaches of the Sale Sharks Division 2 North League.
Stu Peters after a determined effort playing out of position in the 2nd Row received the Man of the Match bottle provided in memory of our ex Secretary Peter Atkinson by his wife Lady Patricia Atkinson.
Fixture secretary, Fred Swarbrick, said it was a real pleasure to watch the game and to see the efforts of the lads rewarded.
Copy supplied by Fred Swarbrick.