Vigo left it to the last minute before dragging victory from the clasp of a misfiring Aylesford side. Enjoying the lion’s share of territory in the first half, if not possession, the Bulls failed to take the few chances that came their way. Vigo weathered a storm under unseasonably blue skies to record their first win in four games to ease their worries.
When Aylesford kicked off and Vigo dropped the ball, it seemed like déjà vu all over again, echoing last week’s fallibilities but, as it happens, both sides seemed to have the same problem, keeping hold of the ball. The Bulls’ stand off, Alex Knuckey was pinning Vigo back with some penetrating kicking, but Vigo were not averse to attacking from deep, Elliot Stickings, Adam Fitzgerald and Liam Byrne-Stevens, newly returned from injury, keeping the home defence on their toes. Luke Henderson, another returning to the shirt after a world travelling sojourn, was quickly in the thick of it, too. But Aylesford were controlling proceedings, mainly through their pack. However, they just could not find the fluidity required to break through a stubborn Vigo defence and together with a propensity of conceding regular penalties, Vigo were able to keep their line intact.
But, twelve minutes in, Ben Moorhouse batted down an intended pass and was quite rightly sent to the NBC. Aylesford, of course, sensed that they had a good opportunity but immediately lost a lineout against the head to the excellent Chris Johnson, and then compounded that with a penalty. Vigo fought hard to overcome their numerical disadvantage, Aylesford still searching for the fluidity required although their big inside centre, Miles Dibsdall needed extra attention with some muscular drives. As Moorhouse was waiting for the signal to re-join the fray, Aylesford scored. With one man extra in the pack, they put in a massive shove at a ten-metre scrum, hurling Vigo back over the line, Ben Turner flopping gratefully on the ball. Ben Rideout converted. Vigo were really suffering from the Bens.
Moorhouse returned and after his little rest was soon in the forefront of Vigo’s charges, Johnson and Dave Winstone, too, crashing into the opposition. If Aylesford thought this to be a walk in the park, they were soon disabused of the notion. Although Vigo were unable to make too many advances into the Bulls’ half, equally Aylesford were unable to finish off any attempts to visit Vigo’s try line. Thus, Vigo reached the break trailing by just the converted try, and a belief growing that they were in this game, especially with a brisk wind now in their favour, and a sinking sun in the home side’s eyes.
So, Vigo began to attack. Craig Whitehead started to become more influential, using the wind to pin Aylesford back. Aylesford were still throwing out penalties, Dave Winstone booting a beauty from thirty-five yards to cut the deficit. The home side responded sweeping down field, Ben Turner carrying hard as he had done all game, and scrum half George Ayres on debut, linking well. Rideout chipped over an easy penalty as Vigo came up offside. Vigo ran the changes, Marcus Hunt coming off the bench with a point to prove and immediately smashing through a startled home defence. But Aylesford held, returning to the attack, their scrum edging the mini-battle, Vigo grudgingly conceding ground. Aylesford started to build up the pressure attacking across the line. Once, twice, three times, Vigo held them up on the line. The Bulls’ winger, thought he had scored but the referee, as ever in a great position, denied the try, but awarding a penalty. Naturally Aylesford opted for the scrum but, frustratingly, they pushed early, Vigo releasing the pressure with a penalty kick.
Vigo began to believe. They thundered forward, Aylesford now being hurled back, their defence starting to show gaps. As the pressure began to mount, then the penalties started to mount up. Henderson was taken out, off the ball, in an attack, Winstone kicking a relatively simple penalty. Vigo attacked again. Another penalty, this time Winstone converting beautifully from the touchline, right in front of the big home crowd, growing increasingly silent.
Now Vigo really had the wind in their sails – literally – Whitehead and Winstone booming kicks down field. In fact, Whitehead was taking complete control, knowing just when to release his wide runners, when to pop it short, when to turn the screws with inch perfect kicks into the corner. Aylesford were looking more and more flustered. A point behind and time running out, Vigo came hard. Last play, and Vigo started an irresistible move, recycling and driving. Penalty. But Vigo played the advantage auperbly, Dominic Carslaw stopped just short. Confident that Winstone would kick the points, Vigo played the advantage and came again. Eventually there was Ben Moorhouse two metres from the line and only about four opposition tacklers to negotiate. No contest. Try. Winstone’s conversion attempt hit the post to stay out. The whistle went for the end of the match. Vigo – players and travelling supporters alike – erupted in joy and relief. Even John Whitehead was seen to smile. And that is something to write home about.
Man of the Match. Ben Moorhouse (Vigo RFC)
Scorers. Aylesford . Tries. Turner (28’). Cons: Rideout (1). Pens: Rideout (1) Vigo. Tries: Moorhouse (80’) Pens: Winstone (3)
Vigo Team: O.McSweeney-Atkins; A.Fitzgerald (rep: M.Hunt), L.Byrne-Stevens, O.Stringer (rep: R.Carleton), E.Stickings; C.Whitehead, D.Carslaw; W.James, G.Rawlings, W. Castle (rep: B.Buckland); J.French (capt.), B.Moorhouse; C.Johnson, D.Winstone; L.Henderson.
Referee: Ross Alexander (SEFed)
Stuart Anderson (Bulls’ Director of Rugby) An even contest for both sides. Aylesford did not take their chances in the first half, and Vigo did. Vigo’s exit strategy was excellent throughout.
John Whitehead (Head Coach – Vigo) The boys worked hard in training, and it showed. This was a great bounce back after last couple of games. What we had worked on in training, they executed well on the pitch. We knew it was going to be a physical battle; our intention was to meet them head on. Overall, we did.
MOG’s view: Aylesford are a very good club, their whole set up directed at moving upwards, their youth section the envy of all. So, this was one of the more satisfying wins, especially after recent travails. The lads showed what they are capable of when they commit to training, to attending, and the match. And a word for the home club. Unlike some, they supported their team with passion but respected the opposition and the officials and took their defeat with grace.