Having lost heavily to Gosport a fortnight ago, and missing several regular players Vectis approached their game against the reigning Hampshire champions, Havant RFC U14s, with some trepidation on a sunny day at Sandown and Shanklin RFC.
With some players having to play out of position and with less regular players making starts Vectis proved that with a fighting spirit and a positive attitude even the best teams can be met head-on. The game started with an early period of Havant pressure and their big forwards made sizeable dents in the Vectis line and several times they looked to be breaking through but there was always a last-ditch tackle being made, and great work by Freddie Newton, Johnny Graham, Caleb Reynolds, Sam Fox and Olly Fry made sure that Vectis stayed in the game and that the Havant ball was disrupted so that their backs didn’t get any useable ball. When the ball did go wide Harry Johnson and Finn Mahoney made sure of their tackles.
Havant kept the pressure up however and having got the upper hand in the scrums earned two penalties on the Vectis 5m line, from which they scored two crash ball tries, one of which was converted. It would have been easy for Vectis to fold at this stage but they showed their mettle and with a new half-back pairing of managers man of the match Will Hatch at 9 and Tom Branagh (chosen as man of the match by Havant) at 10 running things Vectis worked their way back into the game. Strong running from Jesse Butchers in the centre, got the team going forward as well, along with able support from Leo Chichon in his first ever club game and Will Ridley. The pack got on top of their opponents and earned a penalty which was put into the corner. From a 5 m line out Ryan Fu drove over, taking several defenders with him.
A further period of pressure from Vectis followed and with the front row of Ryan Fu, George Nicholls and Thor Lawel-Reily leading the way Vectis drove forward again with Finn Mahoney and Leo Chichon making ground when the ball reached them. Will Hatch spotted a gap behind the Havant Defence and chipped the ball over them following up his own kick to score; the conversion by Tom Branagh brought the sides level at half time much to the surprise of the visitors.
Havant aren’t Hampshire champions by accident however and they used their squad of 28 to bring on virtually a new side and played a smart tactical game in the second half keeping Vectis pinned back in their own half. Fresh legs from Jack Smith and Billy Rees, who did well to get up from a huge tackle on him, in the second half kept the home team’s work rate up but a tiring Vectis were forced to play from deep too often and on several occasions they were caught in possession in their own 22 and Havant scored three further tries, two of which were converted to give the score a lopsided feel which didn’t reflect the effort and passion put in Vectis, who coped with the absence of several players admirably.
The game showed that Vectis have the potential to develop strength in depth, and with new players joining it bodes well for the tour and next season.
Many thanks to Tom Mahoney who put in a good refereeing performance and to Sandown and Shanklin for their hospitality, particularly the BBQ.
Team Chichon; Mahoney; Johnson; Butchers; Ridley; Branagh; Hatch; Fu; Nicholls; Lawel-Reiley; Graham; Reynolds; Fry; Fox; Newton; Rees; Smith;
Match report: Andrew Hatch