Heathfield, seemingly a pleasant suburb of Waldron, was a first visit for Vigo, and driving there I was struck how very pleasant this part of the world is, like Kent used to be before it as inundated with high speed railways, smart and not-so-smart motorways ,sprawling shopping centres and new housing developments. This bucolic peacefulness must have seeped into the Vigo minds, too, as after a bright opening minute or so, they then seemed to slip into a bout of lotus eating transcendental meditation and served up 18 points in as many minutes to practically settle the outcome of this match to the home side.
Vigo, due to illness and non-availability, were once again much changed, with two forty plus olds on the bench in Rob Carleton and the esteemed Inspector Cox of the Yard, Darren, making a return to 1st team action after an absence of probably a decade. But these two venerable gentlemen looked on with (probable) astonishment as Vigo heaped error upon gaffe in a horrific opening half hour. No sooner than the visitors had advanced menacingly into H&W territory than they lost the ball in a tackle, the home side picked it up drove back upfield in a series of drives, their left wing splendidly named Jeyden Rainbow (I believe) bouncing off several tackles to set up James Woodrofe to score. Encouraged, Heathfield continued to pressure Vigo, who were finding it difficult to break out. Jack Morgan kicked a penalty as Vigo committed some sin or another at the breakdown and was then soon lining up another conversion as Vigo threw a wild pass into no-man’s land and Heathfield were able to snaffle the ball and work Tom Cornwall over for the try. Morgan missed the conversion in a tricky wind but , no matter, as the home side continued to press. Vigo were still in a state of shock, apparently, as another wild pass was picked off with glee by Eion Larmer who went over from about a metre to score. No doubt, in the splendid Heathfield clubhouse he would be talking about thundering half the length of the pitch, but I can assure you, dear readers, it was about a metre. Nevertheless, Vigo were 18 points down in the same number of minutes and , arguably, were more than halfway responsible for all of those points.
In Vigo’s game at home, Heathfield had fielded a very young side but lately they appear to have welcomed back several seasoned players and were a totally different proposition to then. Their big second row, Nick Cook, was particularly concussive in his running whilst scrum half Callum May was a controlling influence at the base of a dominant scrum. Vigo’s scrum was put under a lot of pressure , although Luke Henderson was doing well making something out of a rapidly retreating scrum. Vigo began to wake themselves and started to proceed down the pitch and raise a mini-siege deep in Heathfield territory. For once the home scrum lost control, Dom Carslaw went blind with Elliot Stickings absolutely free to his left. Dom dummied, and just as he was enveloped by about three defenders, and the crowd were screaming ‘’pass it’’ (well, I say crowd – the half dozen hardy souls who had made the journey) and seemingly Sticko was about to explode, Dom reappeared from the thicket of players to plunge over for his first try since (apparently) his mini-rugby days.
So, Vigo on the scoreboard. The journey seemingly out of their system, lotus leaves digested and ready to play. But, needless to say, another wild pass behind the line of Vigo runners, a Heathfield boot propelled the ball miles upfield and Larmer won the chase to go over for his second. Jack Morgan converted with a superb kick. Vigo returned to attack and to their credit hurled Heathfield back. Adam Fitzgerald smashed forward, Chris Johnson carried on and Vigo piled into the 22. Penalty. On the stroke of half time, so Tony Whitehead took the pragmatic option, Dave Winstone kicking the penalty.
Now with the wind, and no doubt, gentle words of encouragement from the coach, Vigo gathered themselves for a second half assault. Which duly came. But, unfortunately, not on the team. Liam Wiltshire, ready to join the fray from the bench, was warming up and leaned against the post to stretch hamstrings. Either he has superhuman strength or the posts were decayed, because it promptly collapsed. There then followed a discussion between the referee, the captains, the coaches, some bloke walking his dog, a UN observer and a Papal legate to decide what to do. Eventually it was decided to move to the original pitch which had been deemed unfit for play, hence the match taking place on the second team pitch a few hundred yards from the clubhouse.
There had been a few ideas mooted, apparently, that all conversions would take place at one end of the pitch. Or the game abandoned as a draw. Or, conversions would take place aiming at one post scoring double points if the post was hit. But common sense prevailed, the game was moved – which pleased the bar manager as now the clubhouse was next to the action and the bar was, once again, in action.
As it happens, Vigo were back in action as well, using the lengthy break to get their minds in gear. They began to attack across a broad spectrum, forcing Heathfield to retreat. But the errors were still there. All too often a promising attack ground to a halt, usually with a spilled pass, sometimes with a needless penalty, which Harry Reilly invariably pumped down field with a mighty thump. Vigo kept coming and at times nearly scored but Heathfield defended really well, albeit without their Captain Angus Taylor for ten minutes, carded for an indiscretion at a breakdown. Vigo,for all their huffing and puffing, just could not break down a resolute defence. Cox and Carleton came on, Wiltshire too to attempt a demolition job on the opposition rather than to the equipment. All to no avail. The home side held firm. Then as time was called, Vigo coughed up the ball one last time, Heathfield broke away from deep, Nick Cook capping a fine display with a fully deserved try. Morgan’s conversion was both simple, successful and signalled the end of the match.
Scorers: Tries: Heathfield: Woodrofe (5’), Cornwall (13’), Larmer (20’, 35’), Cook (80’). Cons: Morgan (2). Pens Morgan (1). Vigo : Tries: Carslaw (25’). Pens. Winstone (1).
Vigo team: O.McSweeney-Atkins; A.Fitzgerald, T.Whitehead (capt.), O.Stringer, E.Stickings (rep: R.Carleton); C.Whitehead, D.Carslaw; W.James (rep: D.Cox), B.Buckland, G.Rawlings; B.Moorhouse, J.French (rep: L.Wiltshire); C.Johnson, D.Winstone; L.Henderson.
Referee: Steve Matthews (SEFed)
MOG's view: This was one of those games that's probably best put in a box , put away in a cupboard and never see the light of day again. Vigo weren't bad after a horrific opening 20 minutes. Every mistake they made - and there were many - was punished. Heathfield's scrum and defence was good, but Vigo could not finish any number of promising moves especially in the second half. Missing so many players, it might be understandable, but the replacements were more than capable. perhaps, the lack of continuity and team understanding was more of a factor. Hopefully, there will be a backlash next week against second placed Folkestone.