VENTNOR 33, ALDERSHOT & FLEET 34

CUP rugby at its very best was played at Watcombe Bottom on saturday, with both teams quite literally throwing caution to the wind in the Hampshire Shield semi-finals — Ventnor the unlucky losers by a solitary point.

So tight was the contest, the result remained in the balance right up to the final whistle.

Ventnor began strongly and opened the scoring when Chris Hill charged down a kick close to the visitor’s line, from which Justinas Urbonas gathered the loose ball and sent an overhead pass for Sam Lines to gather and touch down.

Aldershot’s troubles increased with a yellow card after a high tackle, with Ross Harris slotting over the resulting penalty.

However, Ventnor went off the boil and carelessly failed to protect the ball after a burst by George Finan, which allowed Aldershot to pick up a loose ball and score.

Still reeling from the set-back, Ventnor allowed the visitors to run through tackles for a second try, converted.

As so often, it was Ventnor’s set-piece which put the opposition on the back foot.

Skipper, Lewis Jones, was outstanding as hooker, nicking the opposition ball at will, which allowed Hill opportunities to pick up a ball against the head and send Louis Malkin in to ensure Ventnor led 13-12 at the interval.

However, the second half could not have started any worse for Ventnor — conceding a penalty, followed by a couple of preventable tries, to stretch Aldershot’s lead to 29-13.

But Ventnor did not allow their heads to drop, with Ed Blake putting the home team back on the front foot with his powerful bursts, which broke through Aldershot’s first line of defence.

From one such attack, Jones drove to the line and, from the ruck, Malkin made a long pass for Harris to dive over.

Then Oscar Fitzgerald, a replacement for Harris, caught a tricky ball and went over.

With time running out, it was all out attack from Ventnor, but the ball went loose to allow Aldershot to counter and score.

At 34-23 to the visitors, the game looked over for Ventnor, but the powerful Blake — in excellent recent try-scoring form — forced his way over.

Then a sustained Ventnor attack ended with Dominic Marsh taking a difficult ball to get the touchdown for Ventnor’s sixth try.

In a dramatic twist, man of the match Blake’s conversion attempt to win it, agonisingly crashed back off the upright.

Ventnor line-up: Savill, Jones (capt), Pratt, Lane, Noyes, Marsh, Fletcher, Hill, Malkin, Edwards, Blake, Urbonas, Lines, Finan, Harris. Replacements: Price, Fitzgerald, Riches, Flanagan.