This was a disjointed match in which a combative Southampton team played a full part based on a game-plan of spoiling Ventnor’s possession and challenging the offside line at every opportunity.
Ventnor started slowly – possibly still emotionally charged from the minute’s silence given to in respect for the family bereavement of Alan Whitehouse, a great friend and supporter of the club.
Whatever the cause, it was Southampton who put on the early pressure which resulted in a penalty to take the lead.
It needed a spark to get the game going for the home side and it was Ian Lane who provided it, powering a massive counter ruck to set Ed Blake free. His pass found Sam Lines who may have been able to go for the line himself but chose to return the ball to Blake and the chance went to ground. But from the ensuing scrum, Ventnor’s front row of Adam Pratt, skipper Lewis jones and Ben Savill sent the opposition into reverse and Louis Malkin’s quick service put Jake Babington down the blindside channel for the first score.
Ventnor’s second try was a classic. Justinas Urbonas cleaned up possession on his own try-line and sent Blake on his way. Cameron Griggs – on for the injured Chris Fletcher – carried it on and offloaded to Malkin who was stopped just short but was able to put the ever-supporting Chris Hill in for the try. Blake kicked the long conversion.
It became obvious that continuous pressure was going to open up gaps in Southampton’s determined defence and it was Babington who found space in open field to put Lines away. Again the fly-half returned the compliment and this time it went to hand so that Babington crossed for his second try.
However, with Dean Magnurson struggling with a calf injury, Southampton came back strongly before halftime and scored a try of their own as the half ended so that the score was 17 – 8 as the teams went into the changing rooms.
Ventnor were in for a shock as the second half kicked off because – before many of the supporters emerged from the warmth of the clubhouse – Southampton had scored again. Suddenly it was 17 – 15 and the game was wide open again.
Max Wheeler had come on for the injured Magnurson and was determined to show his worth even though he was playing in an unaccustomed position in the tight five. His power and energy at the breakdown gave the home team the impetus they needed and Blake eased any nerves with a penalty. Then Jones crashed forward to give Lines and Calvin Edwards a chance of a break. The centre’s clever offload found Wheeler who fed the supporting Andy Teague and much to everyone’s surprise – not least his own – the hard-working second row managed to reach the line from twenty metres out. This was followed by another brilliant try which would have thrilled the Ventnor coaches.
Fullback Urbonas made a scintillating break up the middle – selling the most outrageous dummy on his way. A quick ruck formed and it was Teague again who flew over for his second try in a two minutes. Blake again converted.
At this point in the match, not much had been seen of Ventnor’s young winger, George Finan. As ever he had been prominent in defence but the ball hadn’t come his way in attack. So when it did, he made sure it counted and, from a lineout, found a route down the blind-side and bounced off several tacklers to touch down.
Shortly afterwards, a neat bit of defence from replacement Alex Enache gave Babington a yard of space. He cut back across the pitch and found Lines who straightened the attack and put Hill in for a swallow-dive under the posts.
Once more Blake converted. Straight from the kick-off, Teague caught the ball and fed Lines who, possibly fed up with being the provider, steered his own course to touch down for Ventnor’s eighth and final try which Blake converted.
Southampton never gave up, scoring a third try during the second half and, desperate for a bonus-point fourth, with the clock in the red, set up a siege on Ventnor’s line which the home team did brilliantly to resist despite a yellow card for Malkin.
This was a great victory for Ventnor and, assisted by other results, propelled them out of the immediate relegation zone.
A J Wells Man of the Match: Max Wheeler – for his impact in the second half
Red Funnel Moment of the Match: Calvin Edwards – for ignoring a blatant two-on-one and being taken out by the last defender!
Team: Savill, Jones (capt), Pratt, Teague, Lane, Magnurson, Hill, Fletcher, Malkin, Lines, Blake, Edwards, Babington, Finan, Urbonas subs: Griggs, Wheeler, Enache, Noyes
Ventnor would like to thank their match sponsors: Stewart Blackmore, The Bistro, The Bonchurch Inn, The Crab and Lobster Ventnor and The Kitchen at London House.
Match report: James Morton
This match report and supporting images will appear in the forthcoming Winter 2019 edition of the Ventnor RFC Magazine