A foggy and frosty start to the morning as the ‘weather bomb’ passed over the North West. Some people questioned if the game would be played, but as a retired grounds man I knew the game was well and truly on.
With a short coach ride up the M6 to Vale of Lune, the coach driver took a detour through Lancaster city centre to pick up some last minute Christmas presents and got stuck in the Christmas traffic. Don’t trust a Sat Nav’s ‘quickest route’ option.
Eccles started the game well putting pressure on Vale in their 22 and winning a penalty for the home team being off side. Mark pointed to the sticks and Reece stepped up to take the kick just to the right. He had been kicking well the past 3 weeks but this week he must have left his legs in the changing room as the ball missed to the right. There was no question of the ball going dead with the dead ball area being the maximum 22 metres.
The cold weather caused problems for both teams as the ball was dropped regularly and with the ref only using the letter A in advantage there were plenty of scrums for the forwards to keep warm in. Eccles once again in the Vale half made good ground and won a penalty in the similar place as the first. Reece once again had the kicking duties but he missed, this time to the left. Vale made some line breaks but good covering defence made sure they didn’t cross the whitewash.
Half an hour into the game; another knock on resulted in a scrum which Eccles won against the head and for some reason Spooner decided to get his windmill out, punching his opposite number in front of the ref which deserved a yellow for undefeated fighter. Vale could not keep the ball with knock-on after knock-on in the backs and didn’t take advantage of the extra man. With half time just round the corner Eccles mounted a promising attached using the width of the pitch to stretch the defence and then hitting Mark up in the middle crashing over to the right of the sticks. Reece FINALLY found his kicking boots and added the extra 2. The ref blew for half time after a scrappy first 40 for both teams but with Eccles taking their try well.
Half time 0-7
The start of the second half was played in centre of the park with neither team being able to gain ground when having the ball. 10 minutes in Vale’s number 12 was sent to the bin for repeat offences. Eccles were mounting some promising attacks with the extra man; forwards working well around the corner and then looking to go wide but unfortunately Spooner was out in the backs and left the ball behind him. Once Vale was replenished to their full 15 they mounted a good attack down the right wing. But Freddie and he who shall not be complimented (Glen) made a good covering tackle to stop the try.
Eccles turned the ball over and passed it to Joe Dale who found some space behind Vale’s defence with an excellent kick, however we all know that if you are fat and slow you shouldn’t kick. He deserved the steep fine on the way home.
Eccles held the home side off with good defence in the last 10 as Vale mounted several attacks. The ref ended the game and Eccles fans breathed a sigh of relief. A scrappy performance from both teams but Eccles will be pleased with their first clean sheet of the campaign and a good finish to the year.
Match report by Tom Dutton