Vectis U15s vs Portsmouth U15s
By Paul Laidler
VECTIS U15s start the New Year in winning form, seeing off a well-drilled Portsmouth team 17-0.
IT seems that the break for the festive period worked well for the VECTIS U15s as they bounced back from their pre-Christmas defeat to Farnborough with a measured and determined performance against Portsmouth, seeing them notch up their first victory of 2017.
Whilst confusion over the advertised kick-off meant the Visitors arrived earlier than expected, giving them plenty of time to prepare, it was the home side that came out of the blocks quickest. Straight from the kick-off the VECTIS team pressured Portsmouth in their own half. Well worked play in the back-line saw them push into the Visitor's 22, with the forwards securing possession the ball was swung to the left wing where Matt Bamber added pace to the move to scoot over the line to open the scoring, 5-0.
The game then quickly settled with both teams having periods of good play, but neither side able to put together successive passages. Both teams were suffering from loose and inaccurate passing, and it was proving difficult for either of them to maintain any real pressure and piece together a sustained attack. Mixed in with this was the introduction of the new 'high tackle' law, where any tackle that encroached upon the shoulders or above immediately attracted a penalty or yellow card.
Unfortunately it was VECTIS's Chester Smith that was first to suffer the wrath of the referee, as he was invited to spend 10 minutes in the bin for a high tackle. The break in play did, however, allow the VECTIS coaches to bring Jake Bushnell onto the wing. Despite being a man down, and still recovering from a foot injury, Bushnell was able to capitalise on good interplay in the midfield which created space for him to sprint around the Portsmouth defence and score a converted try on his first touch of the ball, 12-0 to VECTIS.
It wasn't long, however, before the Portsmouth side saw one of their own take a trip to the bin under the new high tackle law, something that all teams will need to get used to to prevent it becoming a destructive element to the game.
With the VECTIS scrum under pressure Alex Cole and Morgan Tombleson were brought on to shore-up the front five and add stability to the set piece. Their introduction brought additional running options within the forwards as well as allowing the back row of Jake Puckett, Mitch Farrant and Harry Stead to have more freedom around the park and begin disrupting the Portsmouth attacks. This added dimension proved effective, but the loose play at the breakdown and poor passing in the contact area meant VECTIS were still unable to take control of a game that was in their grasp.
Throughout the second half the momentum of the game swung freely between the two sides, with more loose kicking and continued infringements of high tackles and poor discipline at the breakdown, preventing either team getting a hold on the game. The VECTIS back-line, marshalled effectively by Jack Davis, accompanied by the new centre pairing of the two Ollies, Scovell and Lovell, was working well and asking questions of the Portsmouth defense but unable to break through.
In the final quarter of the game another surge into the Portsmouth 22 saw Aaron Abraham released down the wing but again unable to make the line, with the follow-on attempts from Ollie Scovell and James Franklin held-up and resulting in a 5m scrum to the attacking side. The defensive effort from the Visitor's did repel the attack from the scrum but they were not able to push the Hosts from their half.
With VECTIS now finding structure to the game, as Tombleson, Miller and Smith began carrying the ball with purpose and making the hard yards, it was inevitable that a third score would come. This time it was Alex Cole who was able to grab a quickly recycled ball from a midfield breakdown, burst through the Portsmouth defence and get over the line for a 17-0 lead.
As the closing stages of the game approached VECTIS again found themselves down to 14 players, this time Ollie Lovell was judged to have gone high and had to spend the remainder of the game on the touchline. A re-shuffle in the back-line was then made more challenging in the dying minutes when Jake Bushnell was shown yellow for unnecessary ill-discipline with the referee, something that the team will need to work on as a whole.
With the game all but won VECTIS continued to defend with gusto and were able to hold out to ensure not only their first win of the New year but also keep a clean sheet in the process.
A thoroughly deserved result with a strong defensive display across the team, a performance that the team will be pleased with and a firm foundation of more to come in 2017. The team will now prepare for their next league fixture on 12 Feburary against Guernsey, a fixture they narrowly lost at the beginning of the season, but certainly one for the taking this time.
Team: Jake Miller, Harri Jones-Evans, Stef Mamula, Chester Smith, Ollie Russell, Jake Puckett, Mitch Farrant, Harry Stead, James Franklin, Jack Davis, Ollie Scovell, Ollie Lovell, Aaron Abraham, Matt Bamber, Tom Hollis, Jake Bushnell, Alex Cole, Rhys Thomas, Morgan Tombleson