A strangely flat Vigo team were brought down a peg or two by a skilful Cranbrook side roared on by a large, well-oiled crowd. After three games without conceding a point, Vigo shipped in a try within 10 minutes, their first for 268 minutes and it was such a soft try, Vigo could only blame themselves. After an early bout of aerial ping pong, Vigo had started to concede too many penalties allowing Cranbrook to build momentum. Nathan Rimmer, Cranbrook’s rather hefty centre essayed a kick at goal from about 40 metres – oh, wait, Brexit – yards out, but just fell short, but that was just a harbinger of doom. Luke Rafferty scuttled through some weak tackling, not something Vigo have experienced lately. Eventually brought down about 10 yards, he expertly offloaded to a lurking Josh Curtis who finished. Rimmer, this time, made no mistake with the conversion. So – 7 points down. How would Vigo respond? Well, as it happens, quite well just 4 minutes later.
Vigo, aided and abetted by a few Cranbrook penalties, got on the front foot, whipped the ball out along their back line to Adam Fitzgerald who takes a bit of stopping from 20 yards out. Cranbrook were the latest team to confront a snorting Fitzgerald who bulled his way over. Tony Whitehead converted from distance to level the scores and momentarily silenced the crowd. And that is akin to stopping Fitz, not very easy. Scores level, this should have been a platform for Vigo, buoyed by a recent run of form, to march forward. But it didn’t happen. Cranbrook’s scrum was on top, their lineout jumpers untouchable and with two good and reliable sources of ball, Cranbrook’s Kent under-20 scrum half, George Robertson was the catalyst for Cranbrook, whether whipping the ball away or making sharp little breaks. And Vigo were just flat. Their defence, so sure lately, spluttered and stuttered. Rimmer hoofed the ball way down the field when Vigo fell foul of a good referee, Mr. Hartley. Nick McPherson, who had a fine match, picking up the ball from the base of a generally retreating scrum, came close to scoring after Cranbrook dropped the ball in midfield. McPherson kicked the ball forward and hared after it along with a couple of Cranbrook players. There was a suspicion of being taken out off the ball, but the referee deemed otherwise.
Cranbrook returned to the attack after this mini score and halfway through the first half scored a deserved try. Rimmer once again booted the ball into touch from a penalty. Cranbrook caught and drove, set up a good rolling maul, eventually resulting in Ben Williams driving over under a welter of bodies. Vigo attempted to get back into the game but came up against a strong Cranbrook defence. Ben Moorhouse threatened on several occasions, but Vigo’s offloading game wasn’t as sharp as usual, and invariably, Moorhouse was swamped by Cranbrook tacklers and the threatened breakthrough didn’t materialise. So, Cranbrook, stretched the lead with a well worked try. They attacked round the fringes, drove on with good support play sucking in Vigo’s defenders before releasing the ball quickly, Robertson sensing just when was the best time to get the ball along the back line. Which Cranbrook did, full back Will Luckhurst making the extra man to score in the corner. Disaster followed when Cranbrook scored just two minutes later. The crowd had found it’s voice, Cranbrook it’s confidence. Vigo struggled to hold on to a match fast falling away from them. Cranbrook were finding the narrow side quite a profitable gateway to breach Vigo’s defence. Robertson again probed, Cranbrook flooded in support and Hamish Gilanders finished.
22-7 was a fair reflection on the game, Cranbrook arguably the best side Vigo has faced this season. Cranbrook looked they would have no problem running away with the match. Something which their crowd firmly believed. But this is Vigo. When it comes to cussedness, Vigo are up with there with Saint Orneriest, Patron Saint of Not Giving Up. Cranbrook started the second half, fluently and confidently, but a combination of their own failings at interpreting the Laws and a few dropped passes, as well as Vigo tightening their defence, meant that their incisiveness was getting blunted. Owain James had replaced Will James on the stroke of half time and gradually Cranbrook’s domination in the scrum waned a tad. Vigo started to drive forward, and Cranbrook began to get a bit tetchy. A scrap developed in the corner as Vigo refused to give ground, occasioning a ticking off by Mr. Hartley. With Robertson and Hartley on the pitch one would be tempted to say that Cranbrook’s eventual win was a tad jammy. But it wasn’t. So, I won’t.
The referee obviously decided that Cranbrook were the sinners awarding the penalty to Vigo. Tony Whitehead kicked for touch, Vigo caught and drove, and then drove again, Ben Moorhouse disappearing under a welter of bodies, but the referee was in the perfect position to award the try. Whitehead converted brilliantly. Suddenly Vigo had been handed a lifeline but with only ten minutes to go, would there be enough time to stage one of Vigo’s legendary last-ditch iron pulling from the fire? Cranbrook were clearly rattled, so too their electronic scoreboard, John Hemmings, who managed to add seven and seven and came up with 15. Vigo were awarded the latest of a series of penalties, McPherson tapped and went only to be superbly tackled by Robertson. Unfortunately, this was about a foot from the mark, so Robertson had to go to the Naughty Boys Corner. Vigo smelling blood came again, but Cranbrook stood firm, repelling any number of drives. Vigo, too, were getting a bit too frantic, all too often giving away a penalty at crucial times. Even when Ben Williams was sent to the NBC after some skulduggery at a breakdown with a couple of minutes remaining, reducing the Cranes to 13 , Vigo just could not break through and, perhaps not surprisingly, finished the match by offering up a penalty which Cranbrook gleefully punted into touch. Game over.
Vigo team: O.McSweeney-Atkins; A.Fitzgerald, T.Barrett, D.Winstone, L.Wiltshire; T.Whitehead (capt.), D.Carslaw; W.James (rep: O.James 40’) G.Rawlings, D.Norton; B.Moorhouse, J.French (rep: R.Carleton 70’); D.Mickelburgh (rep: R.Hayes 70’), L.Henderson; N.McPherson.
Referee: T.Hartley (SEFed)
Scorers: Cranbrook: Tries: Curtis (10’), Williams (19’), Luckhurst (36’), Gilanders (38’). Cons: Rimmer (1). Vigo: Tries: Fitzgerald (14’), Moorhouse (70’). Cons: T.Whitehead (2)
Man of the Match: Cranbrook’s George Robertson. Vigo Supporters’ MVP – Ben Moorhouse.
John Whitehead: Vigo Director of Rugby: After 3 games where we were able to dictate and exert ourselves on the opposition, today we couldn't and all credit to Cranbrook. They were hungrier than us. We need to learn that each game is a new game, and your last performance means nothing. I'm hurting like hell at the moment and I'm sure the players are too. After a defeat it's always about the reaction and I'm sure the players will react in training with a positive attitude.
Dave Wiltshire: Vigo bell….I mean, legend: Vigo seemed a bit flat today, perhaps heavy legged. They were a bit one dimensional, but they stack at it and ‘won’ the second half.