Despite Sandown’s mid-table place in the Hampshire League, Division I, compared to Les Quennevais’ lowly place in the inter-insular Emeraude Lines JRA league, the home side were never over-awed by a muscular, big-boned, visiting team.So, after a fitful five minutes when the visitors pushed Les Quennevais back in the mauls and the scrums, for fully 15 minutes the Sharks played their best rugby of the season.After they had got beneath their heavier opposition pack, and pushed them five yards back in the scrum, they began to run the ball with such fluidity that the only way Sandown and Shanklin could win the ball from the Les Quennevais threes was to stand offside, virtually next to them.So it was no surprise when, after nine minutes, the Sharks’ stand-off, Gary Rousseau, had his first penalty attempt on goal.The ball fell short, but Sandown had been tested and found wanting.Two minutes later Les Quennevais’ scrum earned Rousseau another penalty kick, this time to the right of the posts.Rousseau, whose intelligent kicking game was a feature throughout, lined up for what should have been a simple three points.He hadn’t read the script, though.
For as the ball struck the underside of the bar and bounced downwards, the only player to react to it was winger Dave Marsh, whose chase and follow-up was like a whippet following a startled hare.
He snatched at the ball in front of a dismally slow Sandown player, touched down and, with an easy conversion, Les Quennevais were seven points ahead.Confident now in all facets of the game, the Sharks then turned on the power and twice the threes carved holes in the visitors’ defence before they scored one of the best tries seen at St Peter this season.Following a line-out on the right, the ball was won by Richard Vetier, fed to scrum-half Will Church, all along the line to Simon Gilley, playing at full-back.
He made half a break, but before being stopped he flipped the ball to centre Matt Smith who ran in a try a yard in on the left.The partisan crowd of 150, mainly watching from the balcony, were ecstatic.
Les Quennevais looked the part of a team which had won the Hampshire Bowl the year before.Twenty minutes had gone and the Sharks looked hungry for more tries before Sandown raised their game and nearly scored a try of their own when their bulky right winger chipped ahead, only to be sent crashing to the ground by a flailing late tackle.Gilley – who was at fault – was lucky not to be sin-binned, but he hobbled off the pitch anyway with a leg injury.For a while the absence of such a potent line-breaker seemed to dent Les Quennevais’ confidence, and by the simple expediency of picking up the ball, running into a man, picking up the ball, running into a man – ad nauseum – Sandown came right back into the game.They scored a crash-ball try when their No 8, Ian Robertson, dived over from two yards out, before No 17 Iain Laine converted the try and then, with a minute of the half remaining, tucked away a penalty.With a score 12-10 in the Sharks’ favour, the half-time talk by Sandown’s coach, Graham Thomas, was simple.
‘We need to play a rucking game to give ourselves a platform for the threes,’ he said, adding after the game that: ‘our team began the second half too slow’.They were slow; but they were also securing most of the ball, and it was at this stage of the game that all 15 in the Sharks’ side, led by back row players Roy Le Lievre, Curtis Hutson and Mike Hawkins, tackled everyone who came near them.They even saw another Rousseau penalty hit the bar again, this time to bounce clear of Marsh’s follow-up run, before Hutson eased the Sharks further ahead, taking quick ball by Church from a penalty five yards out to crash over.Rousseau converted.Still Sandown came again, and they deserved to score following five minutes of pressure when Laine converted an easy penalty in front of the posts.Despite leading 19-13, Les Quennevais were hanging on to the win, rather than looking to increase their lead, and only poor handling errors and silly penalty mistakes prevented Sandown from scoring.Then, with eight minutes remaining, a terrific 50-yard Sharks’ kick saw Sandown’s full-back dragged into touch and, following the line-out and drive, Will Church darted a yard over the line to touch down.Sandown could, and should have scored, with the number of penalties they had in the time remaining, but they were bereft of ideas, other than booting the ball into touch, hoping that a catch and drive would earn them points.As the Sharks’ captain, Nick Durbano, said after the game: ‘They were a tidy outfit and ground us down for a while.
But I told the boys at half-time, “”no missed tackles!””‘The first 20 minutes flew, but the last 17 minutes seemed to go so slowly .
.’And, in defeat, Sandown’s Thomas had nothing but praise for the opposition.’We brought over a fair reflection of our current 1st XV.
Les Quennevais showed commitment.
They’ve won this trophy once, and you could see it in their play – they want to keep it.’Les Quennevais: B Walsh, P Deffains, S Carter, N Durbano, R Vetier, R Le Lievre, C Hutson, M Hawkins, W Church, G Rousseau, M Smith, L Haylen, T Hutchins, S Gilley.
Replacements (used): I Robertson, B Green, H Phillips, S Barnes, D O’Brien, M Gilham.Hampshire Worthington’s Bowl: Romsey 0, Tottonians 59; US Portsmouth 5, Guernsey 16; Trojans 18, Southampton 17; Farnborough 24, Petersfield 32.Hampshire Worthington’s Plate: Alresford 10, Ventnor 3; Les Quennevais 24, Sandown and Shanklin 13; Eastleigh 13, Millbrook 22; Fawley 7, Fareham Heathens 12.Semi-finals (Bowl): Trojans v Guernsey, Tottonians v Petersfield.
(Plate): Les Quennevais v Millbrook, Fareham Heathens v Alresford.