Ventnor 10-45 IW
In glorious winter sunshine at Watcombe Bottom, IW were comprehensive victors in a Hampshire One local derby. The match was perhaps more keenly contested than the final score indicates, but there was no doubting the superiority of the winners, who were in control well before half-time.
IW went in as clear favourites despite a long injury list, as Ventnor have struggled all season, but it was anticipated that the hosts would rise to the occasion and so it proved, especially in the opening quarter. Wind-assisted, the home side monopolised possession and territory, testing the IW rearguard which remained resolute throughout the game. Ventnor even turned down an easy penalty opportunity in search of the game’s first try, but that went to IW on their first serious attack. Dan Stirrup, returning from an injury lay-off and operating in the unfamiliar wing position, showed great skill to field a clearance kick and cut through the defence, before parting to Mike Wood for the score.
Though Ventnor were undaunted and enjoyed some more possession, as the half wore on it became evident that IW were well able to contain their attacks, and posed far more threat themselves, particularly in the wider channels. Replacement Owen Herbert was the biggest threat of all upon his introduction after 30 minutes, running from his own half past several opponents before offloading to Gary Warvill for a try. IW now looked comfortable, and crossed again before the break, as a pinpoint cross-kick by captain Lewis Murray left Herbert with a simple touchdown. Murray converted all three of these tries, and IW led 21-0 at half-time.
IW were now strong favourites, especially with wind advantage, and never really allowed their rivals a way back into the game, as Murray added a penalty early in the second half. Spectators were treated to a good contest in the forwards, as Ventnor did enjoy an edge in the set scrums, but the IW pack showed up strongly with effective driving and strong support play. Debut first-team starter Callum Pudney performed well, and Rouse Ltd man of the match Alex Hay completed countless tackles when required. A sour note was the departure of injured stalwart and club chairman Ollie Boulter. When IW had clean ball, they looked dangerous out wide and Herbert scored his second, before the pick of the tries straight from the re-start. The forwards set up possession before superb hands along the backline set Warvill free; his perfect grubber kick was collected by Herbert who completed his hat-trick, giving IW a 38-0 lead.
With 20 minutes still to play, the margin of victory was all that remained to decide, and Ventnor were rewarded for dogged determination by registering two tries from similar lineout drive scenarios. IW had slackened off somewhat, but roused themselves and created more opportunities, some of which were botched. Yet there was one further try, scored by Luke Chandler after a footrush. Murray put the seal on a flawless place-kicking display with his seventh successful goal, and IW celebrated a bonus point victory. They now look to welcome Bognor to Wootton Rec. on 9 December, before a well earned Christmas break and the hope of welcoming several players back in January.
IW: Warvill, Ormerod, Chandler, Wood, Stirrup, Murray ©, Marriott, Rhys Martin, McQueen, Newnham, Boulter, Smith, Pudney, Blackman, Hay. Replacements: Herbert, Brine, Stewart.