A personal view by Cammie Hodgkinson
This rearranged fixture was the only Northern Premier game in the league on Saturday and an important event for both teams.
Without a win this season Vale were anxious to gain their first one in this local derby in front of an expectant home crowd. They were definitely up for it as Kirkby kicked off towards the clubhouse in sunny conditions and with little breeze and the visitors were helped when Vale conceded a penalty which gave Kirkby a lineout inside the home twenty two.
Kirkby won their ball but couldn’t penetrate the home defence although they did maintain territorial advantage until possession swung and a Vale attack from deep took them over the half way line, keeping the ball moving for left wing Damon Hall to score with their first foray into Kirkby Territory. Number ten Jack Turton added the conversion to give Vale the start they would have wanted and they led 7 – 0after four minutes.
There were Vale moments but Kirkby continued to have the better of territory and possession and their efforts were rewarded at the end of the first quarter when flanker Stuart Storey made ground with a typically penetrating run at the Vale line to set up a move which ended with a try for Skipper and number twelve Dave Barton. Fellow centre Tom Pickthall adding the conversion to level the scores at 7 – 7.
The tackling was fierce from both sides, the Vale backs looked sharp and well drilled and tried to hit back but were undone with one over enthusiastic offload and the worst thing happened for them when Kirkby left wing Harry Huddleston intercepted just inside his own half. He was away quicker than Lewis Hamilton off the grid and sped down the left touchline, outpacing all the cover to loop round and score behind the posts, Pickthall converting to make it 7 – 14 with twenty five minutes played.
Vale didn’t allow that incident to interfere with their attacking flair. They stormed into the Kirkby half at speed and pulled off one of the moves of the match with a typical ‘feel good’ training ground move where in mid-field and some thirty metres out a switch pass to the inside connected with full back Jordan Dorrington’s angled run. His pace and running skills took him all the way to the line, but he shouldn’t have been allowed to run that far, and Turton knocked over the conversion to level things again at 14 – 14 on the half hour.
Half time was approaching in this ding dong affair when the scoreline swung back Kirkby’s way, a Vale infringement on the ground was penalised and Pickthall banged over the kick from twenty five metres to give Kirkby the advantage at 17 – 14 when the half time whistle went.
It didn’t stay that way for long, three minutes into the second half Turton was again on target for Vale with a long range penalty to restore the equilibrium at 17 – 17.
A penalty to Kirkby did give Pickthall a chance at goal but the ball was pulled wide into the home sides famously large in goal areas and was still in play. Something went wrong in the Vale defence and they fumbled the ball giving Kirkby possession with a five metre scrum near their left touchline.
A Kirkby drive over the line was deemed held up and from the reset scrum Kirkby moved the ball down the line. Vale held several attacks but were opened up by a call and a clever grubber kick from Kirkby scrum half Ben Walker, Pickthall got the call, ran through to gather and score and added the conversion to his own try to give Kirkby the lead again at 17 – 24 with eleven minutes of the second half played.
Five minutes later Kirkby extended their lead. Young winger Huddleston took a difficult basketball type pass high above his head, near his left touchline and around thirty metres from the Vale line. There was Vale cover and plenty to do but Huddleston somehow battled his way to the line to score the bonus point fourth try, the conversion from wide out missed but Kirkby now had a decent margin at 17 – 29 as the game entered the final quarter.
A decent margin but perhaps not a winning one in such a finely balanced and evenly contested match which had twenty minutes of normal time to run. Control would probably have been the approach to try to get this scoreline into the last ten minutes and all the way to the end if possible but attacking just inside the Vale half Kirkby gave possession away with a risky offload. The pass was intercepted by Vale’s quick number twelve Will Hunt who got away to score by the left corner flag, Turton couldn’t convert this one but at 22 – 29 there was only one score in it with fifteen minutes to play and the countdown was on.
The average age of this Kirkby squad is just over twenty and it was time for wise heads on these young shoulders. Led by their inspirational and experienced skipper Dave Barton they responded by playing out time, minute by minute, until Vale knocked on in time added on and after a quick enquiry to the referee, Mr Elliot Lewis, Walker booted the ball far off the pitch to end the match at 22 – 29.
This bonus point win moves Kirkby into seventh place in the league. Three wins out of the first five games is maybe one win short of where they would have wanted to be at this stage in this reconstructive season but it still ranks as a very good start, although one of the toughest fixtures of the season awaits away against second placed Hull next Saturday.
1 Dan Thompson
2 Ross Hobbs
3 Braden Schiller
4 James Fishwick
5 James Thompson
6 Dave Maka
7 Stu Storey
8 Alex Rogers
9 Ben Walker
10 Mike Fearon
11 Harry Huddleston
12 Dave Barton ( C )
13 Tom Pickthall
14 Harry Ralston
15 Martyn Knapton
16 James Law
17 Craig Galbraith
18 Andrew Bargh