This was an excellent performance from Ventnor who have started the new decade in style. Despite missing some regulars such as Adam Pratt, Dominic Marsh, Harry Colson and George Finan, from the first whistle Ventnor were on the front foot, putting together phase after phase with Louis Malkin’s whipped service providing width which allowed the excellent Sam Lines to run proceedings from fly-half.
Malkins’ confidence grows with every game and he is becoming an increasingly important cog in Ventnor’s machine. Ian Lane was the pick of the forwards at this point, his speed onto the ball and his lines of running giving his forwards a target from which the industrious Andy Teague and skipper Lewis Jones were able to carry forward.
Little mistakes were spoiling their progress, however (including a very speculative kick-ahead by head coach Chris Fletcher!) and it took a determined drive by veteran Dean Magnurson and a typical jinking run by Lines to offer the space for Ed Blake to crash over – a try that he converted himself.
Blake scored his second straight from the restart as Lane took a miraculous running catch – between his knees! – to feed Lines whose short pass put the winger in again – a try which he then converted.
Although the visitors got themselves onto the scoresheet with an unconverted try (when Ventnor’s tackling went absent without leave) it was the home team still on top as their pack began to gain dominance with the power of Ben Savill, Jones and Tristan Price very evident. Consequently from a scrum, Blake made progress, Rosco Harris carried it on and found Chris Hill who took the difficult high offload and forced his way over. Blake again converted.
Chasing the try bonus point, Ventnor were unlucky to miss out when Jake Babington was adjudged (correctly) to have put a foot in touch on his way to a try (for which linesman Fergus Kenny had his parentage questioned!). Soon after Harris put in a great run only to be held up over the line. However, from the subsequent scrum, Hill picked up at no 8 and – all tangled hair and legs – put in an unstoppable run to crash over in the corner. Thus Ventnor led 26 – 5 at halftime.
Ventnor started the second half with an early penalty from Blake. This new kicking reliability is to Blake’s great credit having put in some hard work with coach Fergus Kenny.
The visitors messed up the restart and Babington took the pass from Edwards to battle through a couple of tackles and streak over. Blake again added the extras. Then classy fullback Justinas Urbanos put in a great run which resulted in a quick tap penalty from Blake to put Babington in again.
The game had been played at a great pace throughout and there were some tired bodies out there so mistakes began to creep in. Cameron Griggs came on to boost the energy in the pack – and demonstrated his hunger for work with some storming runs.
The ever-reliable Dan Noyes joined the front row in place of Tris Price (who performed remarkably despite the sleepless nights which are part and parcel of the arrival of a new baby). And Max Wheeler replaced the excellent Harris and provided his muscularity in defence as the visitors began to use their heavy runners to make progress.
To their great credit Gosport and Fareham finished the stronger team, scoring two late tries and only being denied fourth by a magnificent choke tackle by Magnurson, Fletcher and Blake.
Who knows how important the denial of that try bonus point will be at the end of the season?
The final whistle sounded with Ventnor taking a vital win 41 – 19 to jump-start their new year’s campaign in Hampshire Division One.
A J Wells Man of the Match: Ed Blake. Two tries, an assist, a penalty and four conversions – it speaks for itself!
Red Funnel Moment of the Match: Louis Malkin for post-match indiscretions – a harsh decision by Jewy Jones after Malkins’ terrific match. The large and vocal crowd felt that Chris Fletcher’s kick-ahead was a more deserving recipient!
Team: Price, Jones (capt), Savill, Teague, Lane, Magnurson, Hill, Fletcher, Malkin, Lines, Blake, Edwards, Babington, Harris, Urbonas subs: Noyes, Griggs, Wheeler
Ventnor would like to thank their match sponsors: Norris Family Grocers, Reynolds and Reed Ltd, Smugglers Haven Tea Gardens, Solent.co, Steve Champion and TJ’s Gym and Fitness Studio
Match report: James Morton
This match report and supporting images will appear in the forthcoming Winter 2019 edition of the Ventnor RFC Magazine