Fawley RFC 36-20 Ventnor RFC 1XV Sat 27 November 2021 match report
Ventnor’s preparations for this top-of-the-table clash away to Fawley RFC were severely disrupted by the intervention of Storm Arwen, forcing a change from the Red Funnel Red Jet to the Red Funnel car ferry. This subsequent delay meant that the team arrived in Fawley with barely 40 minutes before kick-off, with time only to get changed and have a few minutes of warm-up.
Warming up (and keeping warm) were vital parts of the day due to the gale-force Siberian wind which was blowing along the length of the pitch and such was the strength of the wind that the team playing into the teeth of the gale were very limited in their kicking options.
Ventnor RFC 1XV started with the wind at their backs and the forwards started well against a larger Fawley pack, securing their own ball and producing good ball for the Ventnor halfbacks, Louis Malkin and Sam Lines.
From the opening play an excellent kick from Lines took advantage of the new “50-22” law and Ventnor had a lineout deep in the Fawley 22. Several promising attacks came to nothing due to a succession of knock-ons and subsequent turnovers but the situation was rectified once players realised the need for “soft” hands and accurate passing given the weather conditions.
After 15 minutes the returning Andy Teague was forced to leave the field with a leg injury; a baptism of fire on his return from injury going into the front row at tighthead prop. Tristan Price came on as a worthy replacement and after 17 minutes a kick into the Fawley 22, and pressure from the chasing Ed Blake and Chris “Tangled” Cardwell Hill, forced a fumble resulting in a Ventnor scrum.
A quick change to the blindside from the scrum and some quick hands gave Max Wheeler the chance to bump both the winger and fullback to score wide out on the left. Tom Crews was unlucky with his conversion, Ventnor 5 points up.
At 27 minutes a long clearance kick forced Fawley to dropkick from under their own posts. Ventnor regained possession from an excellent take and carry from Joel Walton and retain possession across the width of the pitch. A switch down the blindside from Sam Lines and some smart side-stepping allowed him to go over to put Ventnor 10 points up with Crews unable to add the conversion.
Fawley came back strongly from the restart and after several phases of possession had created enough space for their centre to cross the line in the corner. The resultant conversion ended up nearer the 22 than the posts (the wind showing no signs of abating!) so now Fawley 5 Ventnor 10. A couple of Ventnor penalties (where the referee seemed to penalise the ball carrier for not releasing, forgetting that the tackler is also supposed to release!) allowed Fawley into the Ventnor 22 and a series of forward drives allowed them to score out on the right.
Not long afterwards Fawley were able to use their forward power again after a kick and chase down the right wing. After several pick and drives Fawley crossed near the posts and unfortunately Ventnor lost both Tom Crews (wrist injury) and Tangled (head injury) in the melee.
A reshuffle meant the ever-reliable Joe Coghlan came onto the wing, Ed Blake reverted to fullback and Andy Teague came back on into the second row, with Joel Walton moving to the flank. Turning round at half time 17-10 down Ventnor knew what they had to do in terms of keeping possession and not allowing Fawley the chance to gain territorial advantage using the wind. From the kick off Ventnor gained a scrum following a Fawley knock on.
A series of good drives from the Ventnor pack enabled Paul Berry to wriggle through some pretty weak tackling to score. Max Wheeler was unable to add the points but Ventnor were up and running at 17-15. Ventnor were then guilty of shooting themselves in the foot when Ed Blake, trying to run the restart kick out of his own in-goal area was caught on the narrow blindside. In attempting to ship the ball back his pass was intercepted by a grateful Fawley player who had little to do but fall over the line for the try. The kick was unsuccessful – Ventnor 15-22 down.
The restart was delayed while another returning player, Dom Marsh (taking a break from kick-boxing) received treatment for a head injury from Ventnor’s travelling sports therapist Emily Faithfull who was kept busy throughout the game. Straight from the kick, a series of big carries (with Matt Fletcher, Jewy Jones, Joel Walton and, back from injury, Dan Bell at the fore) created enough space for Ed Blake to make some amends for his earlier misdemeanour and cross for a try. Again Max Wheeler (kicking into a gale) was unable to add the points putting Ventnor in striking distance at 20-22.
Fawley were able to take play into the Ventnor 22 but Ventnor cleared their lines following a penalty for offside. Fawley managed to steal the Ventnor throw at the line and after a dummy and switch from the Fawley fly-half their centre was able to get through some fairly half-hearted tackles to score under the posts, making the conversion that much simpler – 20-29 with Ventnor chasing the game.
Andy Teague was forced off to be replaced by Tom Davis and Ventnor still showed much determination in stringing a series of plays together allowing both Paul Berry and Sam Lines in particular to take play over the gainline.
A penalty allowed Fawley to kick to the Ventnor 5metre line and an excellent catch and drive from the lineout resulted in a touch-down for the Fawley no8. A successful conversion and now Ventnor were 20-36 down.
This was to be the final score, despite Fawley losing a man to a yellow card for offside (not before time was heard from the coaches on the touchline).
Ventnor will be disappointed to have lost a game that, given the amount of ball and opportunities they created , they could have won. However, the ability to retain possession over a series of phases and playing the game in the right areas will be pleasing to note as was the collective team response to the enforced reshuffle of the travel arrangements. The benefit of travelling with a full complement of subs is also apparent given the injuries sustained.
The few travelling Ventnor supporters who braved the Siberian conditions also deserve a mention as it was certainly not a day to be on the sidelines!
Final score 36-40.
Ventnor now lie just one point off the top of Hampshire League Division One, at fifth in the league table.
The A.J.Wells Man of the Match: Joel Walton and Paul Berry
The Red Funnel Moment of the Match: Ed Blake
Team: Savill, Jones (capt), Teague, Fletcher, Walton, Edwards, Hill, Bell, Malkin, Lines, Blake, Berry, Wheeler, Marsh, Crews.
Subs: Price, Coghlan, Davies
Match report: Clive Cardwell-Hill
Next Saturday’s (20 November 2021) home fixture against Farnborough RFC has been cancelled.
So Ventnor RFC 1XV’s next scheduled fixture is now away on Saturday 11 Dec 2021 against Gosport & Fareham RFC 2XV
All fixtures are subject to change or cancellation at short notice.
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