Sat 13
Aylesford Bulls
1st XV
AYLESFORD   5    VIGO    12


By trevor newnham
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For the second week running, Vigo drew deep to summon up an unlikely win, finishing with 13 men as they fought desperately to hold on. It was a scrappy win, but satisfying for the Villagers, who seem to have a hex on their local rivals.
On a dreary day, the floodlights on by 3 o’clock, an absorbing match was watched by a big crowd, swollen by a VP luncheon and Vigo’s second team, who were without a match but came to offer rather shrill, but inspiring, encouragement. Both sides began with a series of errors, a motif that ran throughout the match. Handling errors, misplaced passes, penalties were strewn about with rather gay abandon. Hence, no side really gained any momentum, although Vigo had more territorial occupation, but invariably gave away a needless penalty which allowed Aylesford a chance to clear their lines.
Adam Fitzgerald made an early break, but nothing came of it, Aylesford holding back Vigo’s raids with some doughty defence. A young side, apparently missing several key players, they nevertheless tackled above their weight. Vigo continued to press but were reduced to 14 when Tommy Barrett was sent to the NBC (Naughty Boys’ Corner) for a deliberate knock on. Vigo seemed to be a tad peeved by this and threw themselves at their opponents with some degree of fury. They say that a yellow card is worth a try, but Vigo ripped up that script and scored. Tony Whitehead kicked a penalty to the ten-metre line. Vigo have added an effective catch and drive to their armoury this season, and once again, it came into play. The Villagers caught, drove, went through the phases until Dom Carslaw, who was a part of a great trio with number 8, Nick McPherson, and 10, George Cook, deemed it the time to strike. He demanded the ball, got it and whipped it out to the threes. Aylesford, sufficiently distracted by the rolling maul, were a bit short in the back line. The rather slight winger suddenly found himself facing the snorting Fitzgerald bearing down on him. No contest. Fitzgerald rampaged over the line to open Vigo’s account.
Aylesford fought back trying to make their extra man count. Their own number 8, Ben Turner, who took some stopping all afternoon, made another telling half break. Aylesford gave Vigo a dose of their own medicine, offloading well, rolling through a couple of phases, until releasing their own backs, full back Callum Bailey making the extra man and scoring in the corner. Aylesford’s backs were rather slick and threatened to break through on several occasions, but Vigo’s defence was at it's gritty, stubborn best. Not that it was all one way. As soon as Barrett re-joined the fray, he converted his frustration at the yellow with a superb break. Alas, nothing came of it as Aylesford swarmed all over him. Vigo continued to attack with some very good flowing rugby but found Aylesford’s defence equally uncompromising. Several times, Vigo threatened a break through but a combination of sound defence and a predilection for conceding a soft penalty denied Vigo the score.
So half time arrived with both teams locked together at 5-5. It was time to reflect on how far both teams had come and the links between our sides. Both born in a pub – The Bull at Linton, and The Vigo Inn spawning these two sides. In fact, it was the legendary Dave Pugh who helped Aylesford find their present home. No longer the rather demeaning ‘pub sides’. These are two proper rugby clubs.
The start of the second half saw both sides running the ball, but again ambition was thwarted by execution. Aylesford were awarded numerous penalties but all too often failed to find touch allowing Vigo to clear the ball. Aylesford’s regular kicker was absent so various bodies had a go at finding touch with varying degrees of success. I think eventually Will Reynolds, excellent in the lines out, who was more successful at finding touch, no doubt having inside knowledge at the optimum position for a line out Tony Whitehead, on the other hand, was excellent with his line kicking and was able to move Vigo into attacking positions more regularly. The battle up front was intriguing. The James Gang – Will and Owain ‘ The Juice’ had an almighty battle in the front row, neither really dominating but both having their moments. In midfield, the gaps were fleeting, invariably closed down quickly, Aylesford’s centre Tom Gould equally comfortable in both offence and defence. The game ebbed and flowed, too many errors, penalties and every now and then a minor tiff meant that the game never really flowed. But that was of little consequence to Vigo’s supporters, their stridency lubricated by a pint or two of foaming foaming.
As the game entered its final phases, Vigo began to gain a tad more territory. Ben Moorhouse and Marcus Hunt who had threatened to break out on many occasions previously finally achieved the breakthrough. Liam Wiltshire, off the bench, Moorhouse and Hunt linked wonderfully well to smash through Aylesford’s defence and there was Dan Norton in close support to cross the line,fair reward for this quietest but effective player. Tony Whitehead converted with a fine conversion from way out. Aylesford responded with great urgency, throwing everything they had at Vigo.But as furious as they attacked, so did Vigo defend. Real backs to the walls job. When Nick McPherson was carded for a deliberate knock on, closely followed by Dan Norton for killing the ball, Vigo were reduced to 13 with five minutes to go. Aylesford attacked but were guilty of snatching at their chances, and Vigo’s tackling resounding. Every tackle brought even more shrill cries of encouragement from their supporters. One last effort was thwarted, one last ball knocked on. The scrum held firm, and either George Cook or Dominic Carslaw – hard to tell at distance – safely and joyously kicked the ball into touch to end an absorbing contest.

Vigo team: O.McSweeney-Atkins (rep: J.Clemmence); A.Fitzgerald, T.Barrett, T.Whitehead (capt.), M.Hunt; G.Cook, D.Carslaw; O.James (rep: G.Rawlings), D.Norton , W.James; B.Moorhouse, J.French (rep: L.Wiltshire); L.Henderson, D.Mickelburgh; N.McPherson.

Referee: Neil Hamilton (Kent)

Scorers: Aylesford : Tries: C.Bailey (22 mins); Vigo: tries: A.Fitzgerald (17 mins), D.Norton (74’).
Cons: T.Whitehead (1)

Supporters Player of the Match: Dom Mickelburgh – part of a superb back row unit. Aylesford’s Ben Turner was named Aylesford’s MVP.

Stuart Anderson (Aylesford head coach). A scrappy game which both sides contested well. We were hampered by not having a regular kicker, so we just could not establish a good field position. But, well played Vigo.

Dom Saunders (Vigo asst. coach). This win came off the back of a really good week of training. We showed a lot of heart in defence which was arguably the deciding factor in a great win for us.

Oliver Szodi (rising star in the under 12’s) It was quite an action packed match, with some very good offloading by Vigo. Their defence was very good

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Match details

Match date

Sat 13, Nov 2021




London 3 South East

League position

Aylesford Bulls