1st XV - Report
Petersfield 1st XV (36) v Ventnor 1st XV (15)
Under gloomy skies and with a chill breeze blowing across Penns Place the Petersfield faithful thronged the touchline and balcony to watch the final First Team home game of the season.
On paper this match should have been easy pickings for Field with Ventnor languishing 35-points behind them in the league table. However, in the away leg of this fixture in December, Field had been frustrated by a scrappy game and an obdurate Ventnor side that battled on despite several injuries during the game to deny Field the bonus point win they craved.
The early signs looked good for Field, but after 15-minutes the scoreboard was still blank with both sides having only a failed penalty attempt to their names. Shortly after, though the deadlock was finally broken by Bremner who scooted in for an unconverted try. Ten minutes later and the redoubtable Ian Palmer secured a line out and broke through before passing to Bremner who set up a ruck ball. The ball was quickly recycled to Winter who steamrollered through the defence for another unconverted try.
Field looked to be off and running, but Ventnor pegged them back by 3-points with a penalty awarded for Field going off their feet at a ruck.
Close to the end of the half, George Saunders, the ubiquitous Petersfield Full Back, joined the line on an exquisitely angled inside run to receive the ball and fillet the floundering Ventnor defence to score under the posts. This time scrum half Alex Doe took the conversion to take Field into the break at 17-3.
The score line looked comfortable, but the suspicion amongst the watchers was that it could have been more. Unusually for a team that has done so well in matches by doing the basics well, Field appeared at times to be forcing the play and had tried too often to play their expansive rugby from inside their own half.
Another negative aspect of the half was what appeared to be an attempt to inject some unnecessary niggle into a game that seemed otherwise hard fought but fair. The man in the middle, Mr Peter Lewis, felt it necessary on a couple of occasions to penalise backchat and was required to step into prevent a minor outbreak of handbags; notable for one of the visitors feeling the need to run 10-metres to throw punches at a man lying on the ground, much to the derision of the Balconeers.
The second half began as the first had ended, with a try. From a lineout Field set up a driving maul at which a penalty was awarded against the visitors for offside. Doe took advantage of the visitor’s lack of organisation to take a quick tap before weaving through the despairing visitors to touch down for a fourth and bonus point try in the corner, which he narrowly failed to convert from a tight angle.
It was time to shuffle the deck and Doe was replaced at scrum-half by Sam Wilks, debutante lock Alex Patience was brought off by scott heffield and the evergreen Butcher dropped back from prop to replace him. Nick Todd came on for Butcher in the front row and Michael Downs was replaced at prop by the precocious Colt, Toby Faulkner.
Before the pack had time to settle down, Field were awarded a scrum on their own 5-metre line. The ball was won, but bobbled out of the back of the scrum into the grateful hands of the Ventnor number 9 who pounced to secure a soft try under the post at the feet of Field’s stunned defence. The drama did not end there; Mr Lewis, obviously a man at the end of his tether, disallowed the attempt at a conversion and awarded Field a penalty restart against Ventnor for verbal abuse.
Almost immediately after the restart a Ventnor player, who had obviously failed to heed the omens, was yellow carded and required to take ten minutes rest for yet more verbal abuse.
Aaron Cartwright, having another good game on the wing secured a kick from Ventnor and returned with interest eating up the metres with ball in hand before passing to the ever-present Palmer who bulldozed his way to score a try near the post, improved by Bremner.
From one young wing to another, it was then the turn of Tom Franks to open his legs and show his class, mystifying the defence with a strong and mazy run to score near the left hand post. With Bremner adding the extras Field now had 36-points on the board, but rather than kick on and score more, the home side seemed to relax enabling Ventnor to snatch their second try, unimproved, to close the losing gap to 21-points.
With the Isle of Wight first team losing, Field are now within a point of sixth place, but while the IoW visit the team rooted to the bottom of the table, Lytchett Minster, Field’s opposition in two week’s time are third placed US Portsmouth. All is not lost however, in their home fixture at the very start of the season, Field lost to US but scored three tries against the visitors four. With four wins on the bounce under their belts another strong performance team from the men in red may just see them finish the season with a fifth against US.
Match Report by Chris Todd