Vigo travelled to League leaders, Ashford, with a much changed team, unavailability and injury depriving the team of most of their backs, but the way they fought and withstood the powerful home team can give them some solace. Ashford have only lost once this season, and it is easy to see why. They have a big pack,some outstanding strike runners, their commitment to training (no train, no play policy) is there for all to see. Throw in a particularly zealous home crowd, whose knowledge of the Laws is, as ever, encyclopaedic, make the team irresistible.
And so, they started hard and fast, throwing Vigo back immediately, spreading the ball wide to the speedy Fry Myezwa who was knocked into touch by the covering Ollie McSweeney-Atkins. Intent posted, Ashford continued to press hard. Vigo struggled to clear their lines and when they were turned over Ashford quickly spread the ball right then left to the tall figure of Andy Ticehurst who swept over to open the scores. Vigo worked hard to counter but the power of Ashford’s tackling often forced the ball from Vigo’s grasp, and the home side returned to the offensive. After winning a line out and eating up 15 metres with an irresistible rolling maul, the ball was sped out to Charlie Foreman who was presented with a massive hole in Vigo’s defence. He appeared to hesitate, possibly surprised at the gap, but quickly gathered his wits to score easily. Scrum half Ben Gray converted just as easily.
Again Vigo fought back to such an extent that Gray thought he should chip in with some words of advice to the referee, who sent him to the NBC, no doubt to be coached by the supporters. So that gave Vigo a bit of a spur.Good work by Adam Fitzgerald and Will James brought Vigo into the Ashford 22, where the Villagers set up shop for a spell, playing with a lot more fire and discipline than the previous week. They hammered away but just ran into a solid brick wall. Ashford’s defence was outstanding, Vigo runners being halted right across the line, Charlie Norman and 18 year old Adam Butler getting stuck in time and again. Gradually Ashford lifted the siege and returned to the attack, only to lose prop Mark Hutson to a yellow, almost as soon as Gray returned to the fray. But Vigo could make little impression now, Ashford working zealously to negate their numerical imbalance.
Vigo continued to resist manfully, but the weight of Ashford’s attacks, with the ballast of Adam knight and Owen Piper in the forefront, threw the Villagers back. Inevitably, the score came when another swift passing movement set Mzewa free, again to be cut down by McSweeney-Atkins. This time, Welshman Rhys Fussell was on hand to complete the move, Gray converting from wide out. The big crowd settled down, taking time off from baiting the opposition, the ref and the linesman to rehydrate and return to their vantage points to cheer on what they expected to be a straightforward drubbing. But Vigo safely saw out the rest of the half, not without some difficulty, defending stubbornly.
From the restart Ashford attacked across a broad front. Some good defence by George Harrison and Dave Winstone prevented a dangerous attack from developing, before an Ashford offence at the breakdown gave Vigo the opportunity to pump the ball down field. Again Vigo set up a series of decent attacks, a glaring overlap ignored which should have given them a great opportunity to score. But Vigo kept coming, again completely wasting a gilt edged chance with an awful kick straight into an Ashford breadbasket setting up a counter attack which should have seen them score. Vigo held and returned to the attack. Perhaps, Ashford had assumed they would win a bit more easily, but started to get a tad out of sorts with some of the decisions, disgracefully verbally attacking the linesman, the crowd naturally chipping in with their own observations. Ben Moorhouse and Phil Sewell were making some meaty runs, whilst Chris Johnson was everywhere. Craig Whitehead, in the unfamiliar position of fly half, prompted and probed, and although the Ashford brick wall of defence was still solid, there were a few cracks appearing. Winning a scrum, reset about three times, Vigo moved the ball one way then the other before getting the ball to Adam Fitzgerald down the left wing. His power carried him over the line, much to the crowd’s disgust. How could they do this? Impertinence. Their fury rose as Ashford failed to return to their scoring ways, Vigo fighting for every ball. Ashford too became agitated, frustrated no doubt by their inability to score in the second half, frustrated at Vigo’s continued defiance, frustrated at what they saw as the referee’s failings. Whatever, they descended into indiscipline, late tackles on Dom Carslaw and Whitehead sparking a shoving match. A disgraceful and cowardly tackle on Dave Winstone miles away from the ball saw another melee erupt, with tempers become dangerously close to all out warfare. Wisely the referee blew for time, but there was still a lot of shoving and jostling. A pretty unedifying end to what had been an absorbing match.
Star player: Ashford’s tight head, Charlie Norman. Vigo’s MVP Ben Moorhouse.
Scorers : Ashford : Tries: Ticehurst (8’), Foreman (14’), Fussell (32’). Cons: Gray (2). Vigo. Try: Fitzgerald (75’)
Vigo team: O.McSweeney-Atkins: A.Fitzgerald (rep: R.Carleton), J.Clemmence, D.Winstone, G.Harrison; C.Whitehead, D.Carslaw; W.James (rep: W.Castle), G.Rawlings, P.Sewell; L.Wiltshire (rep: R.Hayes), J.French (capt.); B.Buckland, C.Johnson; B.Moorhouse
Referee Simon Bingham (SEFed)
MOG’s view: Vigo showed more commitment, more composure and fought bravely against a strong Ashford side who are certainties for promotion. The unsavoury scenes at the end spoilt a good game, the attack on Dave Winstone for no obvious reason was thuggery and the perpetrator should be ashamed, as well as the players’ and crowd’s constant baiting of Chris Brimstone, who is the most honest of touch judges, equally disgraceful.