Both teams played an exciting brand of rugby and demonstrated commitment and skill that transcended the conditions. New Milton were a cohesive unit, strong in the set piece and well drilled at the maul and in their kicking game but Ventnor were the more determined and hungrier team with every player contributing to a great win.
At kick-off, New Milton were on top and laid siege on the Ventnor line that held firm with excellent defence from the centre pairing of Louis Wyatt and Alex Morton plus the powerful disruptive rucking of Ben Gough, Nathan Ricketts and Simon Benfield. Ventnor began to assert themselves and the direct running of Will Harrison and Charlie Magnurson gave them a foundation from which the excellent Ed Clarke was able to disrupt New Milton at the back of a scrum for Harvey Walker to pounce on the loose ball to touch down. Despite the conditions, Andy Gough slotted the conversion so Ventnor took a 7 – 0 lead. Ventnor’s physio, Steve Marsh, was ringing the changes with Dan Noyes and Joe Pettifer making welcome returns to Watcombe and both having outstanding games.
New Milton fought back and a few Ventnor indiscretions gave them a position from where their strong forwards battered over the line to bring the score back to 7-5 at halftime.
The second half began well for Ventnor with Michael Cooper weaving his way through the midfield to set Skipper Dean Magnurson away down the left. His perfectly timed pass found Walker who dived in at the corner for his second try. 12-5.
Again New Milton came back and a drop goal by their fly-half brought the score back to 12-8 but Ventnor struck back immediately when Grant Richardson caught the kick off and almost reached the line. From the ensuing rucks the Ventnor forwards worked a position and Clarke put Pettifer in for a blindside try. 17-8.
Once more, New Milton fought back and scored another close range try that was converted. 17-15.
It looked perilous for Ventnor because New Milton’s kicking game was paying dividends but a brilliant touchline catch and run from Rosco Harris gave the home team an attacking platform from which Cooper swerved over. Andy Gough converted. 24-15.
Into the last quarter of the match Ventnor were beginning to get on the wrong side of the referee and New Milton were able to ramp up the pressure. Gareth Gough was injured after brave defence so that Cory Turner came back on and the line was held until two successive yellow cards for Richardson and the returning Alan Fox allowed the visitors to score again. So it was 24-22 with ten minutes to go and just thirteen men on the field for the home team.
Ventnor’s character came to the fore and New Milton never came close to their line as the Islanders attacked relentlessly and somehow got onto the front foot. Thus with the last move of the game, Richardson (straight back on after his yellow card) plunged over and made the game safe. Final score 29-22.
Result: Ventnor 29 – 22 New Milton
The A.J. Wells Man of the Match: Ed Clarke
The Red Funnel Moment of the Match: Alan Fox
Team: Harrison, B Gough, Richardson, Ricketts, Benfield, D Magnurson (capt), Walker, C Magnurson, Clarke, A Gough, G Gough, Wyatt, A Morton, Turner, Cooper.
Subs: Noyes, Harris, Pettifer, Fox, Flanagan
Next week Ventnor 2nds play Eastleigh away. Ventnor’s 1st XV home game against Farnborough has been cancelled.
Fawley vs Ventnor 1st XV
Ventnor’s preparations for this top of the table clash away to Fawley were severely disrupted by the intervention of Storm Arwen, forcing a change from the Red Jet to the car ferry. This subsequent delay meant that the team arrived in Fawley with barely 40 minutes before kick-off, with time only to get changed and have a few minutes of warm up.
Warming up (and keeping warm) were vital parts of the day due to the gale force Siberian wind which was blowing along the length of the pitch and such was the strength of the wind that the team playing into the teeth of the gale were very limited in their kicking options.
Ventnor started with the wind at their backs and the forwards started well against a larger Fawley pack, securing their own ball and producing good ball for the Ventnor halfbacks, Louis Malkin and Sam Lines. From the opening play an excellent kick from Lines took advantage of the new “50-22” law and Ventnor had a lineout deep in the Fawley 22.Several promising attacks came to nothing due to a succession of knock-ons and subsequent turnovers but the situation was rectified once players realised the need for “soft” hands and accurate passing given the weather conditions. After 15 minutes the returning Andy Teague was forced to leave the field with a leg injury; a baptism of fire on his return from injury going into the front row at tighthead prop. Tristan Price came on as a worthy replacement and after 17 minutes a kick into the Fawley 22, and pressure from the chasing Ed Blake and Chris “Tangled” Cardwell Hill, forced a fumble resulting in a Ventnor scrum.
A quick change to the blindside from the scrum and some quick hands gave Max Wheeler the chance to bump both the winger and fullback to score wide out on the left. Tom Crews was unlucky with his conversion, Ventnor 5 points up. At 27 minutes a long clearance kick forced Fawley to drop kick from under their own posts. Ventnor regained possession from an excellent take and carry from Joel Walton and retain possession across the width of the pitch. A switch down the blindside from Sam Lines and some smart side-stepping allowed him to go over to put Ventnor 10 points up with Crews unable to add the conversion.
Fawley came back strongly from the restart and after several phases of possession had created enough space for their centre to cross the line in the corner. The resultant conversion ended up nearer the 22 than the posts (the wind showing no signs of abating!) so now Fawley 5 Ventnor 10. A couple of Ventnor penalties (where the referee seemed to penalise the ball carrier for not releasing, forgetting that the tackler is also supposed to release!) allowed Fawley into the Ventnor 22 and a series of forward drives allowed them to score out on the right. Not long afterwards Fawley were able to use their forward power again after a kick and chase down the right wing. After several pick and drives Fawley crossed near the posts and unfortunately Ventnor lost both Tom Crews (wrist injury) and Tangled (head injury) in the melee. A reshuffle meant the ever-reliable Joe Coghlan came onto the wing, Ed Blake reverted to fullback and Andy Teague came back on into the second row, with Joel Walton moving to the flank.
Turning round at half time 17-10 down Ventnor knew what they had to do in terms of keeping possession and not allowing Fawley the chance to gain territorial advantage using the wind. From the kick off Ventnor gained a scrum following a Fawley knock on. A series of good drives from the Ventnor pack enabled Paul Berry to wriggle through some pretty weak tackling to score. Max Wheeler was unable to add the points but Ventnor were up and running at 17-15. Ventnor were then guilty of shooting themselves in the foot when Ed Blake, trying to run the restart kick out of his own in-goal area was caught on the narrow blindside. In attempting to ship the ball back his pass was intercepted by a grateful Fawley player who had little to do but fall over the line for the try. The kick was unsuccessful – Ventnor 15-22 down.
The restart was delayed while another returning player, Dom Marsh (taking a break from kick-boxing) received treatment for a head injury from Ventnor’s travelling sports therapist Emily Faithfull who was kept busy throughout the game. Straight from the kick, a series of big carries (with Matt Fletcher, Jewy Jones, Joel Walton and, back from injury, Dan Bell at the fore) created enough space for Ed Blake to make some amends for his earlier misdemeanour and cross for a try. Again Max Wheeler (kicking into a gale) was unable to add the points putting Ventnor in striking distance at 20-22. Fawley were able to take play into the Ventnor 22 but Ventnor cleared their lines following a penalty for offside. Fawley managed to steal the Ventnor throw at the line and after a dummy and switch from the Fawley fly-half their centre was able to get through some fairly half-hearted tackles to score under the posts, making the conversion that much simpler – 20-29 with Ventnor chasing the game.
Andy Teague was forced off to be replaced by Tom Davis and Ventnor still showed much determination in stringing a series of plays together allowing both Paul Berry and Sam Lines in particular to take play over the gainline. A penalty allowed Fawley to kick to the Ventnor 5metre line and an excellent catch and drive from the lineout resulted in a touch-down for the Fawley no8. A successful conversion and now Ventnor were 20-36 down. This was to be the final score, despite Fawley losing a man to a yellow card for offside (not before time was heard from the coaches on the touchline).
Ventnor will be disappointed to have lost a game that, given the amount of ball and opportunities they created , they could have won. However the ability to retain possession over a series of phases and playing the game in the right areas will be pleasing to note as was the collective team response to the enforced reshuffle of the travel arrangements. The benefit of travelling with a full complement of subs is also apparent given the injuries sustained. The few travelling Ventnor supporters who braved the Siberian conditions also deserve a mention as it was certainly not a day to be on the sidelines!
The A J Wells Men of the Match: Joel Walton and Paul Berry
The Red Funnel Moment of the Match: Ed Blake
Team: Savill, Jones (capt), Teague, Fletcher, Walton, Edwards, Hill, Bell, Malkin, Lines, Blake, Berry, Wheeler, Marsh, Crews.
Subs: Price, Coghlan, Davies
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