When the Locksheath Pumas scored within a couple of minutes of the kick-off, there was concern that it could be a long Saturday afternoon for Ventnor.
Playing with the wind, the islanders were on terrific form, taking the game to the league leaders in concerted phases in which the support play of Ben Savill and Harry Colson was exceptional. Dean Magnurson and Tristan Price were managing to slow any Pumas attacking ball and the returning James Green was providing his considerable power in the loose.
Ed Blake missed an early penalty but a burst by skipper Lewis Jones, led to great forward drives by Colson, George Finan and Blake. The ruck was won and Louis Malkin fed Calvin Edwards whose short pass allowed Ian Lane to force his way over despite the attention of three defenders. Blake converted and Ventnor reached halftime 7 – 5 to the good.
With the wind behind them, the Pumas started the second half strongly and only an exceptional tackle by the evergreen Warren Riches prevented a score after a kick chase. However, the subsequent scrum led to a push-over score (despite the suspicion of a knock-on) and the home team were again in the lead.
Ventnor came back strongly when the dynamic Chris Hill picked up at the back of a scrum on halfway. The ball went wide, Blake brought it back against the grain, Finan straightened the line and, from the ruck, Malkin spotted a gap and shot through, stepped the full back and touched down. A brilliant try. Riches converted and Ventnor were in the lead.
Playing all the rugby, inspired by the relentless energy of Andy Teague, Ventnor almost scored again when Jones burst through and was stopped a yard short. At the other end, Jake Babington pulled off a try-saving tackle but, soon afterwards, the Pumas caught a break when the ball went loose and their flanker chased a kick-ahead and touched down to retake the lead. Noyes came on for Lane but Ventnor’s lack of further replacements probably decided the match as injuries took their toll and the Pumas scored in the last movement of the game to rob the islanders of a hugely-deserved bonus point.
Locksheath Pumas 22 – 14 Ventnor
A J Wells Man of the Match: Chris Hill
Red Funnel Moment of the Match: Calvin Edwards
Team: Savill, Jones (capt), Price, Lane, Green, Magnurson, Hill, Colson, Malkin, Edwards, Teague, Finan, Babington, Blake, Riches. Sub. Noyes