This was cup rugby at its very best with both teams throwing caution to the wind and the result in the balance until the final whistle.
Ventnor started strongly and scored first when Chris Hill charged down a kick close to the visitor’s line. Justinas Urbonas gathered the loose ball and sent an overhead pass for Sam Lines to gather and touch down. Aldershot’s troubles increased with a yellow card after a high tackle with Ross Harris slotting the resulting penalty. Unfortunately, Ventnor then went off the boil and carelessly failed to protect the ball after a burst by George Finan. A & F’s scrum-half simply picked up and ran to the line.
Still reeling from this set-back, Ventnor then allowed the opposition’s outstanding no 8 to run through tackles for a second try which was converted. As so often, it was Ventnor’s set-piece that put the team back on track. Skipper Lewis Jones at hooker was outstanding, nicking the opposition ball at will so that Hill was able to pick up a ball against the head and send Louis Malkin in.
At half-time the home side led 13 – 12.
The second half could not have started worse for Ventnor with a penalty followed by a couple of preventable tries seemingly putting the game out of reach as the score stretched out to 13 – 29. Heads could have gone down and no-one did more than Ed Blake to put the home team back onto the front foot with his powerful bursts that continually broke the first line of defence. From one such attack, Jones drove to the line and from the ruck Malkin flung out a long pass for Harris to dive over. Then Oscar Fitzgerald, who came on for Harris, caught a tricky ball and went over after charges from Dan Noyes and Adam Pratt.
With time running out, it was all-out attack from Ventnor but the ball went loose and A&F countered to score. At 23 – 34 it was surely over. Not a bit of it. Deservedly it was Blake who forced his way over and then a sustained attack ended with Dominic Marsh taking a difficult ball to get the touch down for Ventnor’s sixth try. With the clock in the red and a conversion to win it, Blake’s brave attempt smacked against the post and Ventnor fell agonisingly short with a final score of 33 – 34.
Ventnor 33 – 34 Aldershot & Fleet
A J Wells Man of the Match: Ed Blake
Red Funnel Moment of the Match: Chris Fletcher
Team: Savill, Jones (capt), Pratt, Lane, Noyes, Marsh, Fletcher, Hill, Malkin, Edwards, Blake, Urbonas, Lines, Finan, Harris. Subs: Price, Fitzgerald, Riches, Flanagan