Saturday 15th. December 2018
Northern Premier League
Wilmslow 7 – 7 Vale of Lune
At the end the Wolves will have been relieved to have salvaged a draw from what was increasingly looking like yet another losing position. This though was a game that they really should have won. Their forwards, as they've done all season, delivered plenty of solid possession from the set pieces of scrum and lineout and ensured that the majority of the game was played in the Vale half of the field. They just lacked a cutting edge in the face of an eager, well organised and obdurate Vale defence. If Wilmslow had the more dominant pack, then Vale had the quicker and more creative back division, which more than once went mighty close to nicking the game.
Nevertheless with both sides adrift at the foot of this league, neither will be totally dissatisfied with two league points each. If it wasn't a win for the Wolves, then at least it signalled the end of an eleven match losing run. Both Wilmslow and Vale of Lune are some way behind Kendal and Lymm and it will take a huge change of fortune in the new year to get away from the relegation zone. Wilmslow coach Rick Jones knows the challenge as well as anyone and continues to accentuate the positives. 'Despite everything, he said, there's a great spirit amongst the players. You can see that in the way they keep battling until the final whistle, never throwing in the towel. Right at the end of this game, it was typified by Ben Day's straight on tackle of Vale's No. 13, Jordan Dorrington, which stopped an almost certain match winning try. If they continue with this attitude then the results will eventually come. I'm sure of it.'
The Memorial Ground was bitterly cold, windy and wet, very wet, for this one. That both sides were able to produce so much multi phase rugby in these conditions was a credit to both sides. That's not to say that there weren't also plenty of handling errors and as Wilmslow had around seventy percent of possession and territory, it follows that most of the errors were from them. A measure of the Wolves dominance, however, was the penalty count, which was substantially in their favour. It's in the nature of today's game that referees tend to favour the side in possession of the ball.
Wilmslow were quickly into their stride, taking the game to the Vale twenty two through their forwards. Alex Taylor. Kyle Mellor and Danny Kennedy all stood out with some bullocking runs but when the ball was released to their backs, they couldn't make anything much of it. Credit has to be given to the Vale defensive back line for coming up as a unit so quickly to close down any space and to bring their opponents to ground, frequently disrupting their momentum by driving them backwards.
Less than ten minutes had been played when Bob MacCallum tried to create something with a long flat pass to the left, which was just picked off on the Vale twenty two by their right winger Damon Hall. It was all too easy for Hall who just cantered three quarters the length of the pitch to score under the posts for a 0 – 7 lead. Twice more MacCallum distributed flat passes in the first half and twice more Vale went very close to making try scoring interceptions. Realising that this was a high risk tactic, MacCallum then tried to release his runners into the narrow more crowded areas where they found it difficult to make any ground and to seriously inconvenience the Vale defence. Vale didn't actually get into Wilmslow territory until the final minutes of the half and even then they were restricted to just one long range pot at goal by Damon Hall.
The second half continued in much the same vein with the Wolves forwards trying to bludgeon their way through to no effect and Vale with limited sight of the ball being very dangerous on the counter attack when Wilmslow spilt the ball or otherwise lost possession.
With time running out, No. 8 Alex Taylor was ruled to have been held up after a lineout drive but then when the Wolves got a drive going in the scrum a few moments later, he scored from its base. In semi darkness and spitting rain, MacCallum kept his composure to land the match saving conversion.
Even then, both sides wanted a win. Sean Street went close for the Wolves with a kick and chase effort when Vale mishandled and then Vale turned over a last gasp Wilmslow lineout and with their backs all lined up on their right and Wilmslow's all on the other side of the pitch, the door looked wide open until they were denied by Day's courageous tackle to bring down Dorrington, to prevent the offload and to force a penalty, which MacCallum banged into touch back in the Vale half. There was just time for the lineout but when that came to nothing, the referee blew for no side.
Players and spectators were soon warmed up with pints of ale and stout in front of a blazing log fire in Wilmslow's warm and convivial club house. the perfect antidote for such an afternoon. Nobody on either side was unhappy. It had been a good game, well officiated and played in a good spirit and everybody now takes a rest for three weeks until it all starts up again on 6th January.
Photos: Wolves centre Ethan Harding in possession and Alex Taylor drives on. By Nick Jones.
Match report by David Pike.