It was Storm Dennis that led to the postponement of this game in February, but it was another storm of equal magnitude that greeted a strong Fawley RFC side as Ventnor completely dominated this match with a brilliant display of physical intensity and rugby skill.
As in most games, the performance was founded on a powerful set piece with Ben Savill, skipper Lewis ‘Jewy’ Jones and Adam Pratt taking their opposition front row to the cleaners and Dominic Marsh and Chris Hill ruling the skies at the line-out.
With Ventnor’s usual second-row of Andy Teague and Ian Lane unavailable, Jewy used his powers of persuasion to tempt Todd Riches back into harness and was rewarded with an immense performance from the veteran who inevitably seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Dean Magnurson joined Riches in this ageless engine-room and seemed to revel in the open spaces that opened up for him.
Constantly on the front foot, Ventnor made progress down the right where a dominant scrum gave Paul Berry time to pick his pass. Calvin Edwards – ever-improving in the number ten shirt – spotted Sam Lines on the burst and the outside-centre slid in to take a much-deserved lead.
Fawley came back strongly but Rosco Harris was resolute under the high ball and the tackling of the back-row trio of Marsh, Harry Colson and Hill kept them at bay until the pressure was relieved by drives by Jones and Riches. This resulted in a penalty to the home side wide out on Fawley’s 22 metre line. Riches lined up the kick at goal but the ball swept across the face of the posts – straight into the arms of the charging Ed Blake who crashed over. It was a magical piece of opportunism but for coaches Fergus Kenny and Stuart Babington to suggest that it was ‘straight off the training paddock’ was a bit of a stretch! Thus the half ended with Ventnor in the lead by 10 – 0.
Fawley are a good side but Ventnor’s physicality was taking its toll and the game was interrupted by several injuries. Berry was having a great game at scrum-half, mixing up his play with snipes and passes and it was his sharp service from another powerful scrum that put Blake in for his second try.
Then Jake Babington, who had been close a couple of times in the first half, got his customary try, out sprinting the cover to touch down. Blake slotted the conversion and that vital try bonus point was in the bag.
Frustrated by their inability to make any progress, a few Fawley players began to lose their discipline and Babington was scragged by their hooker even though they were in touch at the time. It was good to see Dom Marsh rush to Jake’s assistance – so reminiscent of his father!
Then the Fawley outside centre tackled the powerful George Finan into touch (fair enough) but then drove him through the spectators, onto the gravel and into the front of a car. It was a disgraceful act of thuggery which he exacerbated by turning his back on the stricken winger. With the wind knocked out of him and a nasty case of gravel-rash, George took some time to recover. Meanwhile one can assume that the car is a write-off!
Justinas Urbonas took his place and was soon in the thick of the action with his direct running. Tristan ‘Beast’ Price replaced Riches who had worked himself into the ground. Beast took over at loose-head and Savill dropped back to join Magnurson in the second row.
Needless to say, Ventnor’s dominance at the set-piece was unaffected and, at one scrum, the opposition was so splintered that it retreated a full ten metres. However the referee, in the spirit of ‘be kind’ gave the penalty to Fawley!
Debutant Tom Crewes came on for Harris and was immediately put to the test when an interception gave the Fawley full-back a sprint to the line.
In an extraordinary piece of defence, Crewes hunted him down and tackled him into touch. It was a play worthy of the Red Funnel Moment of the Match if it hadn’t been trumped by the tireless Chris Hill when the wild-haired number eight managed to put in four tackles within twenty seconds!
It was amazing to witness because each tackle was so dominant that it jolted the opposition player backwards and Hill just moved up and took the next man – like a burpees session in the gym with a tackle at every stand-up!
Blake completed his hat-trick with a typical dart to the line and Colson completed the scoring when he followed up drives by Jones and Berry to slide in under the posts. Crewes opened his Ventnor account with the conversion. Somewhere amongst this spree, Fawley got one back after a rare fumble by Ventnor, but it was purely a consolation which took nothing away from Ventnor’s complete dominance.
After a couple of near-misses in the last weeks, this was such a well-deserved win for Ventnor who moved themselves out of the danger zone of the league.
A J Wells Man of the Match: Paul Berry for his all-court game at scrum-half.
Red Funnel Moment of the Match: Chris Hill for that ridiculous demonstration of tackling prowess.
Team: Savill, Jones (capt), Pratt, Magnurson, T. Riches, Marsh, Colson, Hill, Berry, Edwards, Blake, Babington, Lines, Finan, Harris. Subs Noyes, Price, Urbonas, Crewes, Fox
Ventnor RFC would like to thank the match sponsors for the day, namely: Barry Pike, Mike Buttle, Ron Hunt, Signpost Express, The Crab Shed at Wheelers Bay, The Spyglass, Ventnor Haven Fishery.
Match report: James Morton