Ventnor went toe-to-toe with league leaders Southampton University Hospitals on Saturday afternoon, but this terrific match ended with disappointment for the Island side as they couldn’t snatch a deserved win.
In difficult conditions, both teams played quality rugby but it was Ventnor who came out of the blocks all-firing. Drives from Ian Lane, Dean Magnurson and Chris Fletcher made space out wide so that returning veteran, Todd Riches gave Jake Babington a chance to round his man and scorch up the left wing for an early score.
From the restart, Ventnor went back on the attack and put the visitors under huge pressure – especially at scrum-time where Adam Pratt and Ben Savill (and later Tristan Price) put in great shifts. Indeed Ventnor can consider themselves unlucky that the referee didn’t penalise the visitors front row for continually losing their bind and standing up thus giving their number-eight and scrum-half time to get the ball away.
Due to this pressure, Ventnor deservedly scored again when Southampton desperately cleared the ball from under their posts and full-back Ross Harris brought it straight back at pace. Ed Blake kept the move going with a typical slanting break and, from the ensuing rucks, fly-half Sam Lines twisted over. Riches converted and Ventnor lead 12 – 0.
SUH’s response was immediate and, in constant defence where Chris Hill, skipper Lewis Jones and A J Wells man of the match Andy Teague were prominent, the home team gave away several penalties and the visitors scored a converted try. Ventnor came straight back and a beautifully delayed pass from Calvin Edwards set Babington away and the supporting Harris was unlucky to fumble his inside ball with the line inches away.
Half-time came with Ventnor leading 12 – 7.
The second half kicked off with SUH on the ascendancy as their fly-half began to pin Ventnor back into their own 22. A try from a series of mauls was only prevented by a brilliant piece of defence from Riches but then Ventnor lost Magnurson to a yellow card after an offence at a line-out, for which he was awarded the Red Funnel moment of the match.
The visitors piled on the pressure and, although Ventnor resisted the next driving maul, a breakaway led to a try which was converted. From the resultant kick-off, Ventnor came straight back, first winning an attacking line-out and then, when the move broke down, a scrum against the head. Malkin’s quick-fire service set his attack in motion and Griggs – on for Fletcher – made ground and a penalty resulted. Riches calmly converted.
Now leading by one point, Ventnor had to defend manfully and Harris pulled off an excellent blitz tackle in which he was injured and was replaced by Oscar Fitzgerald who demonstrated great maturity to clear his lines under huge pressure. But once again, SUH went back to their basics and forced another attacking line-out maul which resulted in a try which was converted. Thus, as time ran out, Ventnor were behind again and it could have been worse as SUH were awarded a penalty as the clock turned red.
Luckily the resultant kick hit the post and Ventnor escaped with the bonus point that their performance fully deserved.
A J Wells Man of the Match: Andy Teague,
Red Funnel Moment of the Match: Dean Magnurson
Team: Savill, Jones (capt), Pratt, Teague, Lane, Fletcherl, Magnurson, T.Riches, Malkin, Lines, Blake, Edwards, Hill, Babington, Harris. subs: Price, Griggs, Fitzgerald
Ventnor would like to thank their match sponsors Le Tour du Monde, LJ Plumbing, Mackenzies Chartered Accountants, Mark King, The Muncastors, Nettlecombe Farm and No 24, Ventnor.
Report by James Morton