Dale swamp leaders in a defiant performance. On a very wet afternoon at Moorgate Avenue Rochdale welcomed current league leaders Vale of Lune who had lost only once this season home and away. A somewhat re-arranged Dale side with injuries and departures took to the field determined to give a good account of themselves. From the off they defended well and took the game to Vale, who were themselves missing a few regulars, the pitch did not allow for great flowing rugby but credit to the ref Phil Bygrave for allowing the game to start.
It was Dale on the score sheet first after a good break by Rob Willets to the 22 Vale were penalized for off side and up stepped James Duffy to lift the ball out of the mud from 25 metres and slot over for a 3-0 lead. Almost from the kick off Dale were back on the attack Travis Townsend fed the ball out to Duffy but the final pass to winger Blair Henry was just behind the player and into touch a let off for the visitors. Their best chance of a score came from full back Fergus Owens who looked dangerous every time he linked up with his centres but Dale held firm with Ross Hartley and pack leader Rob Ward both tackling like men possessed to hold the line. Just before half time there was stoppage for an injury to Hartley followed by a penalty 40 metres out to Vale they elected to kick and scored to make the half time score 3-3 the rain continued.
Half time saw Hartley replaced by Dan Hay and the battle in midfield went on with both sides failing to break through the defences on the increasingly sloppy pitch. Duffy again used the boot well to pin back Vale in their own half and chances came to Travis Townsend and Duffy stopped short. Dale were given a penalty on 40 metres and Duffy elected to kick, optimistic most thought but again a wonderful kick sailed over to make it 6-3 after 55 gruelling minutes.
Next up was replacement winger Buckley who received the ball wide from Townsend and made a good 30 metre break only to be hauled into touch and almost drowned in the large puddles just off the pitch. Vale were now putting more dangerous attacks together with Owens and fly half Finan proving the most potent threats. Brave tackles from all the Dale side repeatedly stopped attack after attack and finally it was the home side who again had a chance to extend their lead when on 65 mins the visitors gave a way a kickable penalty on their own 22 and up stepped Duffy and popped over a beauty to make it 9-3.
The last 15 mins was all Vale determined to get over the Dale line but try as they might the cover defence foiled them time after time , despite Ward who had been a rock in defence being Yellow carded on 70 mins the 14 man Dale side held on. With a good 5 mins of extra time played Vale had their last chance in the corner but the winger failed to ground the ball as he slid in and the referee blew the final whistle of a pulsating game, not of classic rugby but sheer determination by Dale not to let their lead slip. A much needed win and 4 points taking Dale to 22 and playing like this they could still avoid the drop. Next week at home again to Wilmslow another good side but beatable by performances like this from Rochdale.
David Rhodes R.R.U.F.C.