Saturday 16th. November 2019
North 1 West
Vale of Lune 12 – 19 Wilmslow
Despite an ever increasing casualty list, the Wolves managed three tries to come away from Powderhouse Lane with four more league points. It had been hard going though against a new look young Vale of Lune team, in which fewer than half the half players had any prior 1st. XV experience before the start of the season and were still feeling their way at this level.
The Wolves created sufficient opportunities in the final quarter for a fourth bonus point winning try but they were denied by a combination of their own inaccuracy with ball in hand and stout defending by the home side, who no doubt felt there might be more in it for them than just a losing bonus point. Overall, it was a scrappy, frenetic, butterfingered performance from the Wolves, compounded by a retreating scrum, particularly in the second half. The Wilmslow set piece ended as a poor second best on the day and maybe Vale should have made more of the scoring positions they set up from the frequent penalties they were awarded.
Neither side were able to make any impression on the scoreboard in the first quarter. Turnovers at the breakdown were common and both sides had their opportunities. Wilmslow then took the lead when, from a midfield scrum, they introduced a bit of width into their back play, broke the Vale defensive line and crisp passing put Sean Street in for the try, converted by Bob MacCallum. They then immediately fouled up the restart, Vale took the loose ball and after several phases, there was space for their right winger Jordan Fern to skip in for the equalising score.
Wilmslow then had the better of the final minutes of the first half. Vale lost a player to a Yellow Card for a stupid piece of dissent and in retrospect that was to prove decisive. From the ensuing penalty lineout, the Wolves moved the ball quickly along their back line for their intruding full back James Coulthurst to cross for their second try. Vale were still a man down when early in the second half, there was suddenly a bit of zip in the Wolves play down the right into Vale territory, Day, Kingdon and Coulthurst all handling, and when the ball was quickly recycled a marauding run by lock Charlie Gardiner in midfield produced an offload to MacCallum who split the remaining defence for the third try.
At 7-19 to the Wolves with over thirty minutes still on the clock, they might have been expected to have stretched their lead but they were guilty of rushing their opportunities, spilling the ball, losing it in contact and allowing Vale to counter attack. The penalty count against Wilmslow in the scrum just mounted and from an attempted penalty kick to the Wolves corner, the ball was tapped back into play and as it bounced about, Fern was to hand again to pounce on it and score Vale's second try.
They now had everything to play for which made the last fifteen minutes interesting. Neither side was able to hang onto the ball as first one and then the other counter attacked from the other's mistakes. It was that kind of a day. The Wolves still created the better chances to wrap it up but there was always the danger that Vale would capitalise on any error and when yet another Wolves attack broke down close to the Vale line, scrum half Street decided that enough was enough and rather than risking throwing it all away, he banged the ball into touch for no side.
Results elsewhere enabled the Wolves to extend their lead at the top of the table to five points but everyone knows that this wasn't a top of the table performance. Next week they face a resurgent Waterloo, now well in the mix in fourth place after hammering lowly Bowdon at Blundellsands.
Match report by David Pike.