This game represented a real statement of intent for Ventnor, invigorated by the excellent win against Southampton in their last match. The match was dominated by two defences who never shirked or relented but it was Ventnor who came through to win emboldened by a new belief epitomised by Lewis Jones who grows into the captaincy as the season progresses.
It was Portsmouth who provided the early pressure but they could never get a foothold and it was the raiding parties of Ben Savill driving through chinks in the opposition line out and ruck defence that caught the eye. Once again Ventnor’s scrum put the home team on the front foot with Tristan Price, Jones and Adam Pratt overpowering their opponents and Savill and Andy Teague making thorough nuisances of themselves throughout. Additionally there was an excellent balance in the back row with the all-action play of Dominic Marsh, the power and pace of Harry Colson both in attack and defence and the experience of Dean Magnurson who did all the unseen work on the floor and appeared in the right places at the right times.
Ventnor took their first points from a penalty from Chris Hill after good work from Ed Blake, Teague and Colson that set up the position so that Portsmouth infringed at the ruck.
Then, after another powerful forward thrust, debutant Louis Malkin got his threequarters going with a long pass to Ross Harris who released Lewy Morton and Hill to give George Finan that inch of space he needed to round his man and score in the corner. Malkin was a revelation, growing in confidence and zipping out passes to stand-in stand-off Harris giving him ‘an armchair ride’ (his words) with time and room to build attacks.
As neither team put boot to ball much, the pace was unrelenting but it was obvious that no player was willing to let down a team-mate and, as the half ended with Portsmouth camped deep in Ventnor’s twenty-two, the thin blue line held to retain the 8 – 0 lead at the break.
The second half began with Portsmouth in the ascendancy but the large crowd at Watcombe were treated to some snap shots of Ventnor’s spirit: Marsh downing the replacement prop with a front-on tackle where the shirt numbers (7 and 22) represented their respective weights as much as position: Morton, in desperate defence, arcing a run and putting in a raking kick to touch that seemed to surprise him as much as everyone else: Jones peeling from the lineout and barrelling into the opposition like a demented bowling ball: Cameron Griggs, on for Savill, stealing a couple of opposition lineouts and driving up field to relieve the pressure: and finally, Magnurson’s last ditch tackle that caused the Portsmouth player to knock-on over the line – and infringement that the referee did brilliantly to see.
All the while Marsh and his lifters were dominating the lineout (to the point where Portsmouth gave up contesting) and it was from one of these that Ventnor drove upfield and provided clean ball for Malkin to give Harris time to set Hill and Morton in motion. Justinas Urbanos timed his run into the line to perfection to take Morton’s pass and the fullback set Finan free for his second try. This seemed to take the wind out of Portsmouth’s spirit although they never gave up and Harris was unlucky to be yellow carded for a high tackle which was more careless than malicious. But even with a man down, Ventnor’s defence never looked like buckling and the numbers were evened out when Hill was upended chasing a rare kick ahead.
It was all pretty desperate stuff but Max Wheeler replaced Harris and calmed proceedings with an assured performance and it is obvious that he is a real prospect.
Incidentally his presence on the field meant that there were now five ‘second-generation’ players out there – namely Pratt, Marsh, Malkin, Morton and Wheeler (and that’s with Jake Babington and Alex Morton missing!).
Dan Noyes – last season’s 2nd team player of the year – came on to replace loose-head Price (who left the field to a chorus of ‘Beeeeeast’) and shored up a tiring defence so that no dents were made and the whistle blew with a final score of 13 – 0 to Ventnor. Both teams deserve huge credit for a match that was played in great spirit throughout.
A J Wells Man of the Match: Louis Malkin – for a brilliant debut.
Red Funnel Moment of the Match: Andy Teague – for going to watch Stephen Fry on tour instead of playing a game earlier in the season. Unforgivable!
Team: Price, Jones (capt), Pratt, Teague, Savill, Magnurson, Marsh, Colson, Malkin, Harris, Blake, L.Morton, Hill, Finan, Urbanos. subs: Griggs, Noyes, Wheeler
Ventnor would like to thank our match sponsors: A J Wells and Sons, Abacus Express Logistics, Bonchurch Garage, Broadfields Park Merstone, D & S Carpets IOW Ltd, Gamson Gray Design and Media and SR & L Building Contractors Ltd.
This report and images will appear in the Autumn 2019 edition of the Ventnor RFC Magazine