Travails at Vale…
The consolation from the scoreline is that Manchester are unlikely to play a better side this campaign, something opponents said about Manchester last season on their way to the league title!
Vale of Lune played a high tempo game from the start and had the pitch and conditions to suit their open style. The first try was on the board in no time as the defence was immediately stretched to allow a run in under the posts (7-0). Within five minutes the score was doubled when a speculative kick was not dealt with, leaving gaps everywhere as Vale chased hard for an ominously easy try (14-0).
The third try, already probably decisive, was scored within the first torrid ten minutes. Manchester spilt the ball in midfield which was quickly seized upon. As the ball was spread wide, there was no speed to cover the attack and a couple of token tackles hardly hindered the scorer to take it to 21-0.
Finally Manchester showed some resolve and as a result stole the ball from a Vale drive. With the home side in attack mode and committed to their left, Zak Round saw the pitch open up in front of him and charged through for a good reply to make it 21-5, all this with only a quarter of an hour played!
The game became more of a contest now and it took a long touch finding penalty by Vale to get themselves back into Manchester’s 22. A training paddock throw to the front caught the defence napping and the short run to the line made it 26-5 in as many minutes.
Manchester tried to play at pace themselves which gave a high risk feel to the game but the optimistic travellers still thought that a reply by half time may make Vale think. Unfortunately the home side’s pace was better matched by their accuracy and a bonus point try, very well converted, took them to the break at 33-5.
The second half started at the same tempo as the first with an early score as Manchester’s defence were rounded to open up a 40-5 gap. Once again Manchester dug in rather than rolling over and the rest of the quarter was their best period of the afternoon, deservedly resulting in a forwards try against the post, after sustained pressure. Doug Day converted to 40-12.
An untidy passage of play inevitably went the way of the leading team, who reacted quicker to a loose ball for one of their more scrappy tries (47-12). Maybe Manchester felt that the world was against them at this point but another try came from the restart when there was simply no defence in place and the hosts were 40 ahead at 52-12.
The last ten minutes had to be played out of course and the day was summed up when a rare Manchester attack broke down in the home 22. The ball was picked up and a run from defence along the touchline to Manchester’s line was not interrupted, extending the lead to 59-12.
The final try was either an incisive run or a knife through butter depending on your perspective, but the points for either were the same as try number ten was run in for a thumping 66-12 that strengthened Vale of Lune’s position at the top of the table.
Not a good day, but to be fair, it is unlikely that as many factors will conspire against Manchester again on the same day that their opponents hit such impressive form.