FIRST DEFEAT SINCE OCTOBER 20.
Thornton kept their selection box tightly shut and away from grasping hands.
The opening fixture of 2019 for the Vale of Lune 4th team saw them make the short journey down the coast to take on Thornton Cleveleys 2nds, a fixture pitting the current top two in League 4 North against each other. TC has not been a happy hunting ground for Vale in the past but they were coming into the fixture unbeaten in 6 games and had recorded a 32-17 victory in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. However the men in Red and White were under no illusions that this was going to be a tough day at the office, especially for those who may have over indulged over the festive period.
Captain Paul Scott was able to call upon many of the regular faces that have represented the 4th team so well this season. There was the welcome addition of Adam Bouskill on the bench following a spell of unavailability whilst pursuing his other hobby of being a rock superstar. Special mention to Andrew Ridal who travelled with the 3rd team (along with 3 friends) to make sure that their fixture was fulfilled.
TC roared out of the blocks and had Vale pinned in their half for the opening 10 minutes of the game. Solid defensive work from Vale’s forwards and backs meant that TC’s territorial ascendency amounted to nothing on the scoreboard. Following this early pressure, the visitors began to settle. However, three consecutive penalties at the breakdown gave the TC fly half the opportunity of 3 points inside Vale’s 22. His attempt narrowly missed the left upright and the scores remained level.
Mid way through the first half, Vale’s front 8 began to gain the upper hand against their counterparts at the set piece. Vale put together a very effective rolling maul from a line out on halfway and drove towards the TC 22. TC managed to survive this attack but it wasn’t long before Vale opened the scoring. A scrum on the TC 22 saw Vale go blind from the base. Quick hands from Robinson and Scott gave Mark Ashton half a gap and he fully exploited it, jinking his way to touchdown just to the right of the posts. Scott added the conversion. 0-7.
The half continued to ebb and flow, both sides asking questions of each other’s defences but to no real avail. TC began to make personnel changes, their new 9 in particular making an impact with some muscular runs. As the half neared its conclusion, Vale were awarded a penalty in the TC 22 and Scott made no mistake with his attempt.
TC took the opportunity to introduce some more new faces during the interval and it paid immediate dividends as from the kick off the ball was shipped at pace to the open side of the pitch, allowing the TC winger to sprint home in the far corner. The conversion attempt from the touch line was missed. 5-10.
The next 10 minutes saw an arm wrestle between the sides, Vale keen to keep things tight and exploit their dominance at scrum time and TC looking to find width at every opportunity and use the fresh legs out wide. It was the latter than won out, TC put together an effective counter attack starting from their 22 that ended with a score under the sticks for one of their replacement forwards. Conversion was successful. 12-10.
Despite the loss of Ashton due to injury, Vale continued to press for a scoreboard response and got an opportunity to re-take the lead with a penalty deep in TC territory. Unfortunately, Scott’s effort just slid wide and the deficit remained two points. Shortly after the teams were instructed to go to uncontested scrums due to an injury to the TC prop.
Minutes after TC found themselves with a scrum on the Vale 22. Simple hands between their fly half and centre put the winger into space and he ghosted in untouched to score in the corner. The conversion was missed. 17-10.
Vale endeavoured to find a try in the closing minutes that would have levelled the scores. The Vale forwards put together a very effective pick and go sequence that almost saw Adam Bouskill over for a try but TC held out and the referee’s whistle came shortly after.
David Robinson - He was late to TC as he forgot his boots resulting in a dash back home to pick them up.
Lewis Arbon - Consecutive D.o.Ds for Mr Arbon, the squeal after getting cramp was pure falsetto and something that should never be heard on a rugby pitch again.
Match report provided by Alex Batson.