“Winning isn’t everything,” but it beats anything that comes in second!
By Alex Ruddock
The Stones were languishing at the bottom of the table at the end of October the turn around has been remarkable, by any standards. Only three matches had been narrowly lost since then.
VIGO 1stXV 27 FOLKESTONE 1stXV 29 pts
Saturday 6th April 2019. LONDON 3SE. Report by Alan Schofield.
“Winning isn’t everything,” but it beats anything that comes in second!
The final match of a good season for Folkestone saw them in third place, playing very close rivals, Vigo, in fourth place – with only a freak set of circumstances happening to let them into second place and promotion.
But considering that The Stones were languishing at the bottom of the table at the end of October the turn around has been remarkable, by any standards. Only three matches had been narrowly lost since then, but the accumulation of points, averaging over 30 points per match, has been equally notable.
Vigo were the opponents in the first match of the season – that was won by them, by a single point, with a gifted try in injury time, but there were no presents for them in this match as Folkestone put in solid all-round performance that placed in them in the sought after 3rd Place in the table – and left Vigo in fifth place after being in second place for much of the season – such is the closeness of the competition.
Weather conditions for the game were poor, with heavy drizzling rain and a cross wind – but Folkestone started brightly with Callum Palmieri finding touch 8 metres from the line, after one attempt, inches short, the ball was moved across field, a maul developed and Adam Tolman, lurking around the back sneaked the ball and nipped over on the bling side before Vigo realised what had happened. Callum Palmieri converted 0 – 7, (this in the absence of Seyhan Fell on International Duty for Cyprus in Bosnia Herzegovina, who scored the last minute try that gave Cyprus a 21-23 win.)
Vigo struck back with a penalty after Folkestone were deemed to have crossed, obstructing a move, but Callum Palmieri nullified this from in front of the posts after John Eustace and Kyle Deakin had strong runs, from a line-out, when Vigo came off-side. 3 – 10.
The game was developing into a pattern of errors producing penalties and scrums a plenty. Both teams were kicking long to gain territory – in the hope that errors would gain them the ground, as it often did. But the game sparked into a new life when Vigo made a fast breakthrough in the centre and showed their danger men as the ball was swung out to the wing as The Stone ran out of defenders. The try was scored, but too far away for the conversion. 8 – 10.
Folkestone had a very good line out working for them. Scott Stewart was inch perfect with his throws and Colby Hayward secured the ball with confidence against some tall opponents. The ensuing maul is well controlled by the front row of Martin Murray, Mat Roots (as hooker!!) and David Ballard. Vigo tended to creep off-side and were penalised. It was from this situation that Callum Palmieri found a long touch kick which was secured in the 5-metre zone and from the following maul Folkestone pack bodily went straight through the defenders to score a push-over try with Scott Stewart in possession. 8 – 15, the conversion attempt by Callum Palmieri bouncing the wrong way after hitting the upright.
A short brouhaha just before half-time resulted in Kyle Deakin, being shown a yellow card, not so much for his involvement, but vehemently arguing that the referee had mis-interpreted the situation. Half time: 8-15.
The second half started as conditions worsened. Folkestone worked their way into the Vigo half with a couple of penalties and that put them into a strong position with a scrum just inside the Vigo 22 metre line. Mat Roots hooked it securely and Liam Trinder held it in the back row feinting a right side move, but Callum Palmieri picked it up and shot through a left-side gap, close to the scrum – evading clutching hands, and sprinted fast and forward to touch down for a try that he converted. This put The Stones into a lead that looked secure in the conditions 8 – 22.
Vigo then enjoyed their best and most dangerous period of play in the match – showing why they occupied the high league position consistently through the season. They had ball possession continuously for a long period of play. Eventually, yet another penalty was given away, but this time a short tap and a determined short sprint made the try line, duly converted to 15 – 22.
Folkestone had lost a good lead the previous week, and a succession of four penalties, coupled with a yellow card for John Eustace pegged them back, and further back as Vigo piled on the pressure. A penalty kick was skewed, but Folkestone failed to secure in their own dead ball area – knocking on. The five-metre scrum gave Vigo the chance – and they took it well, running in a try from the close position – and converting it putting the scores level at 22 – 22.
The large Vigo crowd now were in full cry – encouraging their team as they pressed for victory. Darren Molloy, the Folkestone Coach put on Dan Hillier for Thomo Murray and James Archer to relieve David Ballard in the front row as the excitement mounted, and the drizzle relented with 10 minutes to play.
Folkestone gathered up their resources and Callum Palmieri’s kicking with solid line-outs and mauls took them into the Vigo 22 metre zone where the forwards took over – holding the ball and mauling ever forward infield from the touch line. The power of Mat Roots, Martin Murray and James Archer held the front but Liam Trinder and Scott Stewart trickled the ball forward and a try looked certain – but Vigo ran deliberately off-side to concede a penalty. A scrum was taken, and Vigo did exactly the same again – and again – and again!! Eventually, (and not soon enough as close observers thought) the referee awarded the Penalty Try that took Folkestone into a 22 – 29 lead, with five minutes to play.
But Vigo, were rattled as they kicked off and immediately set their three-quarters off on a mission downfield, the breakthrough in the centre, and ball swung out to the wing was too quick for The Stones to cover – and the try was scored towards the corner flag. 27 – 29. Memories of the previous week flashed through the minds of the players as the kick was lined up and the clock came very close to the finish. It missed!!
But it was not over as four minutes were surprisingly added – all of those minutes had Vigo in possession, but not able to make ground. Folkestone were solid and when Mat Roots stole the ball from the arms of Vigo in a maul, he only had to hand it to Callum Palmieri to boot it over the Clubhouse to claim victory.
After this season, the cricket and croquet season will seem tame. September is fully five months away when it starts again.
Team: Martin Murray, Mat Roots, David Ballard; Rob Godden, Kieran Smith; Colby Hayward, Liam Trinder (Capt.), Scott Stewart; Callum Palmieri, Jon Morton; Freddie Faiers, John Eustace, Kyle Deakin, Thomo Murray; Adam Tolman.
Subs: James Archer, Mason Colchester-Long, Daniel Hillier.
Scorers: Adam Tolman 5; Callum Palmieri 2, 3, 5, 2, 2: Scott Stewart 5; Penalty Try 7.