Ventnor were unlucky that, after a sustained attack, the final ball from Sam Lines to Alex Enache just went to ground with the line begging. However, Portsmouth soon set out their tactical plan, playing 10-man rugby and kicking deep. To their credit, Ventnor’s back 3 of Justinas Urbanos, Ed Blake and Enache dealt with the high ball well but, when the vicissitudes of the wind caught them out, Ventnor were under immediate pressure.
Ventnor were playing all the rugby in the first half but beginning to lose the game as the home team scored 4 tries (2 converted). In retrospect, Ventnor may have done better to have closed ranks and concentrated on stopping the big runners at the gainline and containing the score until the halftime break. That said, Ventnor had one bright spot. Jake Babington, on his own line punted out of defence. With the ball held up in the wind, Babington was able to smash the catcher and Cameron Griggs was over the ball in a flash and the penalty was won. Blake, seeing broken field ahead of him, took the quick tap and – with his combination of power and pace – broke through. With one man to beat, he flicked out a pass to the speeding Enache and the winger powered over. At halftime, the score was 24 – 5 but the game was still wide open.
Portsmouth didn’t score another point but, frustratingly, Ventnor were not able to capitalise on their second half dominance. The work of Adam Pratt and Ben Savill at scrumtime was being negated by the home team’s tactic of slewing the front row, thus giving Chris Hill and Louis Malkin messy ball and denying Lines time and space to get his line moving. In addition, Ventnor’s lineout was failing, the wind proving troublesome to both hookers. Skipper Lewis Jones was probably the worse offender but he more than made up for it with his tenacious tackling and demented bowling-ball drives. Max Wheeler was also prominent in defence and attack and, with Harry Colson, gave Ventnor’s backrow a powerful presence.
Ventnor scored their second try when Blake cut a diagonal line, Calvin Edwards straightened the attack and Paul Berry set up the ruck. Quick ball from Malkin gave Edwards the chance to put the rangy Babington over in the corner. Another positive for the Islanders was the welcome return of James Green who, after a long injury, came on for Ian Lane who had bravely carried a knock throughout. Eventually Ventnor ran out of time – having won the second half – and the final whistle went with the score of 24 – 10.
Final Score: Portsmouth 2nd XV 24 – 10 Ventnor
A J Wells Man of the Match: Alex Enache
Red Funnel Moment of the Match: James Green
Team: Savill, Jones (capt), Pratt, Lane, Griggs, Wheeler, Colson, Hill, Malkin, Lines, Blake, Edwards, Babington, Enache, Urbonas subs: Green, Berry, Fox, S.Gough
Report by James Morton