GLORIOUS DAY FOR RUGBY.
This was Halbro Division Four at its very best. a real treat to witness after the dreary international of the previous evening.
Skipper Paul Scott is one of the most honest of leaders and highly respected and he approached Hon. Chair of Ground Swazzer, who preserves the green sward at its best even in the most severe weather, to ask if the fourths could enjoy the pleasure of playing on the wide open spaces at Powderhouse Lane, being the only side at home. The ever smiling Swazzer was easily persuaded and readily agreed to this request.
However, at nine o’clock in the morning the pitch was unplayable due to a hard overnight frost but by kick off time it was in perfect condition.
Fylde arrived with some reservations when looking in awe at the size of the pitch in the knowledge they would be chasing around what could possibly be the largest playing surface in the country. Actually they adapted well to the dimensions and were certainly fit enough to maintain their energy levels for the full eighty minutes.
Both sides were genuine 4th XV’s which was great to see and in harmony with the ethics of the Halbro North West Leagues; there was no evidence of team loading.
The game kicked off in glorious sunshine, cold but a terrific day for rugby. Referee for the encounter Mr Mark Manning, who controlled a most competitive game with both authority and understanding kept the game flowing at all times, set the game in motion.
Vale drove towards the scoreboard end, Fylde were penalised, scrum half, the quick thinking, Dave Minikin, collected the ball and immediately went over in the corner, goal kicker Ryan “Buzzer” Busby converted the try comfortably in the third minute.
From the resultant restart, Fylde who were obviously stunned by this score, made maximum use of their weight advantage and took the game to Vale; swarming all over the home side’s defence they collected an unconverted try in the twelfth minute.
In the twenty fifth minute a powerful Fylde drive from a line out resulted in a second unconverted try. Five minutes later Alex Bateson touched down for an unconverted try after the elusive Dave Minikin had again evaded the defenders.
Vale were having trouble containing the obvious difference in physique between the two sides but they did not take a backward step. David Robinson worked hard to keep Fylde at bay, with the front row of Adam Bowskill, Danny Harper and Paul Robert Peters comfortably holding their own in the close contact areas.
Karl Hanson and Kris Bishop, a hard grafting, formidable second row partnership, matched the size of their opponents but Karl was forced to leave the action to be replaced Tom Summers, a player of immense potential, who made a major impact.
The second half started with Fylde taking the lead when following a series of powerful drives down the middle an unconverted try was posted.
Vale went hunting for another score. Dave Hughes suffered a knock and had to leave the field but Paul “Scottie” Scott was using his replacements intelligently and switching players around effectively to allow the energy levels to be maintained. As a group the Vale’s threequarters were tackling ferociously, successively fending off numerous Fylde attacks.
A powerful forward drive produced a deserved try for Dave Robinson, who was having an outstanding game, which Ryan Busby converted to give the Vale a four point lead.
Vale had to work hard to protect their advantage. Ryan Busby was having a great game out on the wing, centres Jamie Antcliffe and Alex Bateson shored up the middle although the Fylde threequarters proved problematic. Evergreen Nigel Evans on the left wing and who has been a great servant to the Vale was playing with his usual commitment while Aaron Melville produced another of whole hearted performances, what a player and an inspiration to others!
Eventually the captain had used up all his replacements; Noel Leigh, Stephen “Eccy” Ecclestone, Joley Joel and Luigi Neander had all been thrust into the action to bring extra energy to the team as the Vale worked hard to preserve their lead.
The physical size of the Fylde outfit continued to prove a difficult unit to control and following another huge forward drive they score an unconverted try wide out to go one point ahead. In the closing minutes another energy sapping surge produced the winning score for the visitors.
At the final whistle all agreed it had been a stirring game of rugby, a pleasure to watch and take part in on an immaculate playing surface.
A big thank you to Fred Swarbrick for his match report.