An Alternative View of IWRFC – by O’Pinion Sun. 26 March 2017
So the Six Nations is over for another year. O’Pinion thoroughly enjoyed Ireland’s win over England in the tournament finale, and frankly has only just sobered up, though events on the field weren’t the only Irish victory that weekend. Yes, your columnist went shot for shot in a Dublin nightclub with English no.8 Billy Vunipola and won, then managed to avoid the paparazzi while Big Billy was pictured a little ‘worse for wear.’ A good sport, all the same. (See the end of this week’s column for O’Pinion’s updated Lions Test XV.)
Most importantly, IWRFC hosted Ventnor at the Rec and secured their third win from four local derbies this season. It was a good day up the club with a well attended VPs’ lunch and plenty of ‘well-oiled’ spectators, keen to offer the players and the referee the benefits of their wisdom. The game itself sometimes sparked into life, even if it was often a scrappy, stop-start affair.
A very strong wind played its part in limiting the fayre on show, making accurate passing a challenge for both sides. For IW who dominated possession and looked more dangerous, it was particularly disruptive, though the Rangers did not always help themselves with a few too many 50-50 passes and fumbles. It was also noteworthy that both teams arguably played better into the wind, rather than with it at their backs.
IW played into that gale first half, and after an uneventful first few minutes, an interception pass was gleefully run in by Ventnor for the opening score. To the boys’ credit, there was no panic and they quickly recovered to force the pace from then on. There was an issue with slow support play and good work by the opposition at the breakdown at times, preventing continuity. However, when IW got it right, there were some dazzling passages of play, one such leading to the fearsome sight of Smudge handing off an opponent on the 22 before cantering over to level the scores. Another great score followed soon after, finished by captain Dan Stirrup (I think), so IW led 10-5 at half-time, with the wind to follow.
The opening minutes of the second half saw aggressive defence lead to territory, and Owen cut a great line to score under the posts, Lewis converting. At this point, it seemed likely that we would pull away, score the bonus point try and possibly rack up quite a margin. This did not happen. Maybe it was dogged play by Ventnor, of which there was plenty. Maybe the Rangers slackened off, but I don’t think so. Certainly some of the referee’s decisions did not find favour with the home side, who grew frustrated as they were repeatedly penalised, often at the breakdown.
Ventnor’s persistence was rewarded as they established some field position of their own in the closing minutes and battered at the IW defence, which held firm and cleared their lines. However, the play was called back and Ventnor did score their try, remarkably now only seven points behind. IW roused themselves and laid siege to the Ventnor 22, eventually securing the four-try bonus with the last play. Fittingly, it was outstanding skipper Stirrup who finished the scoring.
So, not a great display, though in fairness there was no shortage of effort and heart from the Rangers, and winning while playing a bit below par is never a bad sign. Sixth place is now almost certainly the lowest we’ll finish this season – securing fifth depends on winning our last two games, away to Heathens and home to Romsey. Achievable but not easy. It’s been a good season – let’s have a fitting finale, boys. Rangers! Rugby!
IW: Herbert, Webster, Stirrup ©, Wood, Toms, Murray, Augustus, Newnham, Keyes, Tanner, Boulter, A Smith, Brown, Evans, Lynch. Replacements: Ridley, Raunigger, Williams.
Six Nations and Lions round-up
Congratulations to England on their Six Nations win. Congratulations to Ireland on preventing the Grand Slam/record run of wins. Congratulations to France and Scotland on now each having a decent team. O’Pinion got quite a few match predictions wrong, but looking back at his pre-tournament post, he actually got the finishing positions of each nation correct! Just as well the bookies don’t offer odds on such an outcome.
Your columnist also hazarded a guess at the Lions Test XV pre-Six Nations, which of course now needs updating. So here we go:
13 Still very hard to call – going for Huw Jones
11 Tricky – Liam Williams maybe? A lot of English options here too
1 M Vunipola
4 Itoje (but needs to give away fewer penalties)
5 AW Jones (if not fit, how about Launchbury?)
6 Stander (or O’Mahony)
7 Warburton (capt.)
8 B Vunipola
Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts, Rangers!