An Alternative View of IWRFC by O’Pinion – Sun. 11 Dec. 2016

An Alternative View of IWRFC – by O’Pinion

In O’Pinion’s opinion, you can’t beat the run-up to Christmas. The anticipation of quality time with family and friends, good TV, time off work, etc. The only downside is a couple of rugby-free Saturdays, though IWRFC’s players will probably be glad of the break after a hectic season to date. Yesterday saw a trip to Watcombe Bottom to face Ventnor in the second Island derby of the season, the penultimate league match of 2016, and an opportunity to move up to sixth if victory could be secured and Fareham Heathens lost.

Ventnor had been billed as suffering from injuries before this much anticipated game, and IWRFC were struggling with a growing list of unavailable Rangers themselves. This extended to Lewy getting injured in the warm-up, and an unsuspecting Tom Marriott turning up to watch only to be pressed into service as a replacement with borrowed kit! On a gloomy and misty day, battle commenced.

We scored after about a minute – their kick-off didn’t go ten, we scrummaged solidly, Owen Herbert made a searing break and James Webster supported for a great score. Lewis then kicked the conversion and a penalty – 10-0 up. Thank you very much.

The lads dominated the first half, scoring four tries though there could have been more but for some loose play and ambitious offloads. Owen ran back an ill-conceived defensive kick with interest and found Andy Rann, who showed blistering pace and glue-like hands to ensure the touchdown. The stench is now frankly overwhelming – Ranner must live near O’Pinion’s house. Zimby was back to his broken-field best and shipped to Alex Hay for a try, and then Owen was given a metre of space near the touchline. That meant a score, of course. We gifted Ventnor an opportunist try thanks to the aforementioned looseness, and they were rewarded for their only real period of pressure in the half by  exploiting some sub-standard IW tackling for a try by their big no. 8. 31-12 at half-time, bonus point already sorted, and a big scoreline looked possible, if the Rangers could keep up their exciting standard of play.

The club was strongly represented at the match, some availing of a VP lunch beforehand provided by the hosts. O’Pinion had the pleasure of seeing club legend Nigel Harris, who has been ill but thoroughly enjoyed the first-half fayre. Steve Lucy was also there, as was an array of IWRFC supporters both young and not so young. Great to see.

After less than two minutes of the second half, there was an incident which no one wishes to see on a rugby pitch, as Ventnor’s no. 13 sustained a serious ankle injury which required a lengthy stoppage and ambulance removal to hospital. Needless to say, everyone at IWRFC wishes him a full recovery.

Long stoppages such as this one can affect teams in different ways, or not at all. Certainly on this occasion, the game was unrecognisable from before, as it was Ventnor’s turn to apply pressure, while the IW Rangers were sluggish in comparison. It was just as well that defence was strong in this period, as we struggled to get any sustained possession and had to soak up plenty of Ventnor attacks – teams higher up the league would have punished this less inspiring second half performance.  Highlights of the second half were limited to Smudge’s speculative kick and regather, and a better final five minutes as IW again looked like they might add to their tally. So, not a great second half, but the first half made up for it and we’re up to sixth after Heathens’ loss. We host them next weekend and will need to beat them to retain that mid-table placing.

Well done to Grant Smith who was man of the match. Well done to Lewis who kicked every goal. Well done to every Ranger who contributed to a second away win for the firsts. Thank you to Rich Freeman, who leaves for Australia and has left a major imprint on all of Island rugby. Good luck to Andy Brown, who will be looking after Rich down under. Here’s to next week – hopefully two matches at home and a Christmas party afterwards! ‘Three cheers for Wootton!’

IWRFC: Herbert, Webster, Stirrup ©, Wood, Rann, Murray, Evans, Newnham, Tennant, Keyes, A Smith, G Smith, Brown, Hay, Stewart. Reps: Toms, D Bishop, Marriott.