A Review of the Ventnor RFC 1XV 2019-20 Season


A Review of the Ventnor RFC 1XV 2019-20 Season

James Morton chats to Ventnor RFC 1XV skipper Lewis ‘Jewy’ Jones about the strange season just passed, comparing our views from on the touchline and on the pitch.

A Review of the Ventnor RFC 1XV 2019-20 Season
A Review of the Ventnor RFC 1XV 2019-20 Season

JM. How do you think it went? Progress surely?

Jewy. Absolutely. We had a tough start to the year which was not helped by travelling short a couple of times, but we really started to play to our strengths and for each other as we moved through the calendar. At the point where the season suddenly stopped, I thought we were beginning to show an all-court game and the belief in the group was really coming through.

JM. I have to say, I was a touch nervous when the season kicked off and we learned that Dawson and Jimma were moving away and that Goughie was probably out for the year. And I think we all knew that Bezza would only be able to do a few games due to work. And, to compound that scenario, Lewy Morton went working away in Denmark. That’s a chunk out of any squad!

Jewy. I think many people thought that, but look at the results. Beast came back full-time which, in my opinion, more than made up for losing Sam and others stepped up to fill the gaps. The influx of talented younger players has really given us an impetus and, when everybody is available, has created some competition for places.

JM. After the first couple of games, I gave you a bit of hard time for not using our scrum dominance more to get a few penalties and put the opposition under pressure from the ref’. The scrum was a strength throughout the season wasn’t it?

Jewy. It was so dependable. AP was outstanding throughout and Ben Savill and Tristan ‘Beast’ Price are both so strong. We could feel the opposition wilting at times. I know what you’re saying about the penalties but our kicking game wasn’t that strong and our lineout wasn’t always reliable – especially as Tangled was playing scrumhalf in those early games and therefore not a regular jumper.

JM. I was hugely impressed by the work rate of the front row. It looked to me that AP was fitter and more involved in the loose.

Jewy. For sure. We had some set moves involving AP which worked well. And Ben Savill was fully deserving of his 1st XV Player of the Year award. I think we are seeing him beginning to fulfil his potential – and I feel there’s more to come. And Beast’s rendition of ‘Who Will Buy?’ on the coach home from Fawley is a memory that will never fade!

JM. That and Alex Enache’s Polish national anthem were the highlights! I liked Chink’s willingness to step into any position. I think there was one game in which, due to injuries, he played in every row in the scrum and then out on the wing! And he is definitely thinking about the game. In another match, when you were getting a hard time in lineout mauls, he identified the problem and took the catcher out as he landed thus stopping the maul at source.

Jewy. Don’t forget Dan Noyes. He spent a lot on time on the bench but was ultra-reliable when he played. I fully understand that he feels he needs more game time and experience and we really hope he comes back to Watcombe soon.

JM. What about yourself? Did you find the burden of captaincy took anything from your game?

Jewy. I don’t think so. I hope I’m someone who leads by example so if I’m doing my thing, I don’t have to think about much else. Too be honest, thinking isn’t my strong suit! Seriously though, we have quite a few leaders on the park, for instance Deano and Jake – plus Bezza when he played.

JM. I liked the way you handled the refs with humour and charm. And I was impressed to see a return to the lost art of hooking in that game against Aldershot and Fleet. AP was raving about it after the game!

Let’s look at your second row. The combination of Andy Teague and Ian Lane looks great.

Jewy. I think Teaguey is beginning to realise his own strength! He was running great lines and his support play is fantastic. Laner was a massive addition to the camp. He’s got such a great attitude and is up for a bit of ‘biff’ if it’s on the cards. His driving play gives everyone a target.

JM. From the touchline, it always appeared that we saw more of Teaguey as the game progressed. He seems to have an incredible engine that keeps him going when others maybe are beginning to tire. And Laner was tremendous. That take from the kick off against Gosport and Fareham when he caught it, at pace, between his knees and made a try for Ed was a highlight of the season for me! In my opinion it was a pity that Greener wasn’t able to play a couple of games.

As we all know, after an injury battle, it’s game time that restores confidence. When he was on the pitch he looked good – as did Chris Fletcher in those short bursts of his! He’s one powerful fella. I only really saw him coach at away games and I liked his attitude and the way the guys responded to him.

Jewy. Chris was great when he played, given us focus. Not surprisingly, as you say, his duration on the pitch tended to be in short bursts. And let’s pay homage to Babz when he came in for that away game against Gosport and Fareham. What a character and a willing servant for the club. To come away with a try bonus point from that game was sensational.

JM. I couldn’t agree more. And Woz Riches played in that game too. Between them they put the average age up a touch! Absolute legends!

The backrow appeared to be a strong area for the team. How do you see it?

Jewy. A very competitive area. Harry was immense all season and gave us so much go-forward. Dom couldn’t play all the games because of his kick-boxing prowess but when he’s on the pitch, his work-rate is unbelievable. That last-minute try against Aldershot and Fleet in the last game of the season is testament to his fitness and commitment.

JM. I’m still convinced that Dom thinks he weighs 16 stone the way he puts himself about on the pitch. I wonder if Steve and Tina have fiddled with the bathrooms scales! I thought Harry was outstanding all season. Not only powerful but quick across the ground. His defensive tackling is terrific too. Personally I would like to see a bit more structure and tactical thinking at the back of the scrum and suggest that it’s something worth looking at.

Jewy. Maybe but –as the season progressed – our patterns were much better defined and we were making massive inroads off the back of the scrum. When Harry is carrying, the support that’s with him with Dom and Tangled (or Lewy when he played) is exceptional. And if it all went pear-shaped, there was always Deano to clean up the mess and maintain possession. His work on the ground is without equal. As we have already mentioned, Tangled started as scrumhalf where he did a great job but his real love is the backrow and he was outstanding all year. The only trouble with him is that his pace and power can take him too far away from the support when we are in the middle of some phases!

JM. Lewy and Alex played either side of Deano in a 2nd XV fixture in a previous season and couldn’t believe that he was managing to get to breakdowns as quickly as they were. It’s his lines of running and his knowledge of the game, as well as his undimmed commitment, that makes him such a vital cog. He will be missed next season. Tangled is a force of nature. His tackling appears to be without any self-regard! I remember in one game that he made four show-stopping tackles in succession, driving a different opposition player back each time!! Amazing to witness. It was a pity Cam didn’t get much game time because of injuries etc. I wonder if he was lacking a bit of confidence at times which is strange for one of his power and ability. I’d love to see him back sometime and watch him fulfil his potential.

Jewy. A great guy to have in the squad and some of his power running was simply scary!

JM. Now I realise that we are moving out of both our areas of expertise but how about matters behind the scrum?! My personal opinion is that the arrival of Louis Malkin was a key factor in the season.

Jewy. I agree. Not only did we get a great player but it allowed us to pull Tangled back into the pack which, among other things, put our lineout back on track. Louis was brilliant. Of course, he was a bit nervous in those early encounters, but he soon found his feet and took to senior rugby like a duck to water. And, of course, Bezza stepped into the No 9 shirt on occasion. Whenever and wherever he plays, he brings commitment and experience.

JM. It was the pace and accuracy of Louis’ pass that impressed me. I was talking to Lino after a game when he played flyhalf and he was telling me that the way the ball was slapping into his hands gave him extra whole seconds and yards – which is all Lino needs of course. Talking of whom, how did you rate Lino’s season?

Jewy. He started at 10 but moved out to 13 when Calvin came into the flyhalf role. Lino is a class act. The idea behind moving him wider was to give him a bit more space. When the ball is in his hands, you just know something is going to happen. Not only that but his physicality in the tackle was upped this season.

JM. I was slightly surprised when Lino moved to centre but Toddy explained the thinking to me at the time. I wasn’t sure about Calvin at 10 at first but, after a couple of games settling down, he proved me completely wrong. I thought he looked better and better and he appears to have real vision of what’s going on the pitch and an instinctive ability to spot the support runner.

Jewy. Talking of Toddy, I felt bad having to resort to begging him to play on occasion. But, from the team’s point of view, he was brilliant.

JM. He reminds me of Dean Richards in the England teams of the late eighties. He’s not the fastest man on the pitch anymore but he’s like a ball-magnet and once it’s in those big mits, he isn’t going to lose possession! Moving down the line, how about the threequarters.

Jewy. I think it’s fair to say that we struggled with consistency of selection because of various factors but everyone gave it their all. Jake was exceptional and played as well as I’ve seen him. Maybe the fact that he didn’t have the worries of captaincy freed him up. He’s ridiculously quick and his commitment is phenomenal.

JM. There was that away game against Portsmouth where Jake kicked ahead from his own line, scragged the guy who caught it and then set up a try at the other end for Alex Enache. It spoke a great deal about his skill and maybe more about his determination. I thought it was a pity we didn’t see more of Max.

Jewy. Max has got it all but he struggled with various knocks and injuries. He impressed me when he was conscripted into the forwards that time.

JM. Me too. He won’t like me saying it, but maybe that’s his position – just like his dad! Rosco impressed me as always.

Jewy. He always gives his all and he’s still got pace and enthusiasm. You could see that eighty minutes may be a struggle at the moment but his value to the team – and to any coach trip – is huge. It’s great to be able to call on that kind of experience, especially when you’ve got younger players coming in. George is obviously going to be a major asset for many years. His physicality is incredible for one so young. And he’s such a great character.

JM. I hope he pushes on because he is freakish to be honest. I feel his concentration can wander on occasion and he needs a steady stream of ball so he doesn’t switch off! With him on one wing and Ed on the other, it’s criminal if the ball doesn’t go wide.

Jewy. I thought Ed had a great season. He can be a bit excitable with the quick penalties but maybe that’s my fault for not setting the guidelines. And, of course, he will front up when there’s a penalty or conversion to be taken whereas one or two others will happily fade into the background! He worked hard on his kicking all season and I know Fergie helped him a great deal.

JM. That missed conversion against Aldershot and Fleet being a case in point. I know he was devastated by that but he forgets that the team would not have been in a position to win without his exceptional performance that day. His line-breaks, pace and balance are awesome. Mentioning Fergie, I love his passion on the touchline. I can’t remember who cocked up but his cry of anguish will live long in the memory. “Do that again and I will pull you off!” He’s a great addition to the coaching team. What of the full-back position?

Jewy. Justinas is so underrated. He is reliable under the high ball and comes into the line very effectively. Once or twice we were in real difficulty and he sorted it out. He doesn’t panic and throw wild passes but cleans up and puts us back on the front foot. Incidentally, I thought that Alex (Morton) did really well in those early games despite being placed in a position completely foreign to him. I just love his enthusiasm. And Tom Crewes looks like a real prospect.

JM. Tom impressed me no end. His try against Aldershot was exceptional and his cover tackling is as good as it gets. I look forward to watching him when we get going again. Similarly Oscar and Alex Enache. It’s great to see these young guys taking the field with such confidence and flair. And perhaps the bravest performance of the year belongs to Dane Dovale against the perfect storm of Tottonians 2nd XV (sic!) away in a rearranged fixture when half the team were missing!

Jewy. And Foxie, Flan and Weldy in that game as well. I think that may have been Foxie’s last hurrah but what a way to go. He was outstanding until he used his head (again!) to bring a guy down! Flan is another, like The Rev and Babz, who will go once more to the well on behalf of Ventnor.

JM. Well it looks like we’ve worked our way through the squad. How do you feel about the season to come – whenever that may start?

Jewy. Optimistic. Training is going well. The guys are champing at the bit to get going. Chris and Fergie are making it interesting and fun despite the restrictions and Clive is going to help so the quality of the sessions will be even better. From a personal point of view, I have enjoyed my first season of captaincy because I’m with a great bunch of guys and it is obvious that we’re on the way up. It was quite tough early on and I want to acknowledge the contribution that Zoe has made to keep me focused despite having to put up with my grumpy moods on occasion. That presentation at Tottonians was a real highlight for us both. Also we should take time out to praise Steve Marsh for looking after us when time allowed. He’s a great guy to have in your camp. And, last but certainly not least, Jac must get a mention. We came across some pretty awful pitches but never at Watcombe which was a credit to his work whenever we played there.

Players who have represented Ventnor 1st XV in 2019 / 2020

Ben Atkins, Jake Babington, Stuart ‘Babz’ Babington, Paul ‘Bezza’ Berry, Ed Blake, Harry Colson, Tom Crewes, Dane Dovale, Calvin Edwards, Alex Enache, George Finan, Oscar Fitzgerald, Mike ‘Flan’ Flanagan, Chris Fletcher, Alan ‘Foxie’ Fox, Scott Gough, James Greener, Cameron ‘Cam’ Griggs, Ross ‘Rosco’ Harris, Chris ‘Tangled’ Hill, Lewis ‘Jewy’ Jones (capt), Ian ‘Laner’ Lane, Sam ‘Lino’ Lines, Dean ‘Deano’ Magnurson, Louis Malkin, Dominic ‘Dom’ Marsh, Alex Morton, Lewis ‘Lewy’ Morton, Dan Noyes, Adam ‘AP’ Pratt, Tristan ‘Beast’ Price, Todd ‘Toddy’ Riches, Warren ‘The Rev’ ‘Waz’ Riches, Ben ‘Chink’ Savill, Andy ‘Teaguey’ Teague, Justinas Urbonas, Max Wheeler.

Coaches:- Chris Fletcher and Fergus ‘Fergie’ Kenny with assistance from Stuart Babington.