LIGHTNING DOES STRIKE TWICE.
By Stuart Vernon
Another wholehearted performance before the curtain game down early again.
Vale of Lune travelled to take on Sandal on their own patch for the first time since 20 November 1993 without a number of their regular players with five missing who had featured in the starting line up against Harrogate. Adam Foxcroft and Steve Tagg formed a new second row pairing, and battled hard against experienced opponents, in the absence of Harry Fellows and James Robinson, while Ross Pillow returned to the front row.
In the backs Charlie Lomas replaced Billy Swarbrick at scrum-half, Blake Steele swapped wings in the absence of Olly Jacques with Jordan Fern coming in on the right wing. After missing the last five games through injury Ben Dorrington partnered Fergus Owens in the centre berth following the unavailability of Damon Hall.
Despite all the changes the Vale “won” the first half, 19-15, but for the second game in succession, against Yorkshire opponents, they ended up losing, a worrying trend in what at this early stage of the season, appears like a battle for survival in North Premier.
Straight from the kick off both sides displayed a willingness to move the ball around but it was the Vale who made the first impact with a try in the sixth minute following a free flowing counter attack. Ben Dorrington bounced his way through tackles for his try which stand-off Alex Briggs confidently converted.
Four minutes later Vale doubled their tally when Fergus Owens glided through the Sandal defence without a hand being laid on him before offloading the ball to winger Jordan Fern for a neatly constructed try, with Alex Briggs adding the conversion.
Sandal’s supporters had more to worry about in the sixteenth minute when the Vale went further ahead with a move straight out of the training paddock. From a line out the ball was efficiently transferred crossfield, space was created and full back Chris Ramwell arrived on cue to take Blake Steele’s pass for an unconverted try and to celebrate his fiftieth appearance in style, Alex Briggs was fractionally off target with his conversion attempt. And here endeth the Vale’s scoring, until the dying minutes of the game.
In the twentieth minute Sandal started to rouse themselves, much to the relief of their good humoured supporters. The ball was moved swiftly to the left, eventually the Vale ran out of numbers which allowed winger Danny Grainger to nip over for an unconverted try.
If this score brought the smiles back to supporter’s faces Sandal’s next try had them grinning from ear to ear with some justification. Sandal launched a counter attack from deep in their half. The ball was spun delicately through many hands before Danny Grainger crossed the whitewash in the twenty third minute, stand-off Greg Wood put over the conversion.
Chris Ramwell pulled off a try saving tackle on former Vale player Austen Thompson but in the thirtieth minute Greg Wood chipped over a penalty goal to complete the first half scoring in what had been an entertaining half with plenty of action and some passage of quality rugby.
Vales four point lead was wiped out in the forty second minute when Danny Grainger collected his hat trick with a well taken try which Greg Wood converted. The contest continued at a lively pace, the ball was pinging around which caused a Sandal supporter to suggest his side should “settle down!”
Well if this Tyke was advocating route one rugby his wishes were granted in the fifty fifth minute when a Sandal forward rumble resulted in a penalty try. Andy Powers made defiant thrust down the middle but Sandal were beginning to flow as was the operator of the electronic scoreboard who had the lights and numbers dancing all over the screen.
Everything settled down to confirm Sandal’s next score in the sixty third minute when Greg Wood twinkle toed his way over for his try which he converted.
A rare Vale attack came to an inglorious end in the sixty seventh minute when right winger, James Ellar, intercepted a pass to pelt eighty metres for a try which Greg Wood converted. Sandal’s final score came from full back Jack Townend following a period of pressure, Greg wood’s conversion from in front brought up the half century mark.
There was enough time left for the Vale to salvage something from the game when in the third minute of extra time they gained a try bonus point when the hard working Jack Ayrton was on hand to score after a superb break from Fergus Owens.
“White Rat” has proved to be a popular ale in Sandal’s delightful clubhouse but the Vale are going to require more than the services of a Pied Piper to lead them to safety, perhaps the Desert Rats might be up to the task of blasting a way onto the “Yellow Brick Road” but with title chasing Billingham at The Lane on Saturday it could be another case of battening down the hatches and making sure that Toto is tucked safely away.
1 Ross Pillow Phil Sutcliffe
2 Andy Powers Bay Travel
3 Mike Bradshaw Available
4 Adam Foxcroft Carpet and Floorcare
5 Steve Tagg Available
6 Sam Wallbank SJB Tiling Ltd
7 Jack Ayrton Allan Entwistle
8 Raun Fourie George Dickson
9 Charlie Lomas The Alies
10 Alex Briggs Jilly Beads
11 Jordan Fern Online Systems
12 Ben Dorrington Ron Higgin
13 Fergus Owens AJB Electrical
14 Blake Steele Duncan Hall Financial Services
15 Chris Ramwell Martin Woodhouse
16 Aiden Yates Mathews Benjamin/ Fine and Country
17 Fraser Spavin Mathews Benjamin/Fine and Country.
18 Ethan Robertson Mathews Benjamin/Fine and Country