An Alternative View of IWRFC – by O’Pinion Sun. 5 March 2017

An Alternative View of IWRFC – by O’Pinion                                     Sun. 5 March 2017

Yesterday, Saturday 4 March 2017, would have been a momentous day for IWRFC regardless of events on the pitch, as the club unveiled their impressive new changing rooms. The role of Nick Puckett and others should be acknowledged in bringing this development about, as well as those who painted the rooms and made sure they were ready for this day. Yet there was also the little matter of local derbies for the firsts and seconds to whet the appetite. O’Pinion was glad to take a break from the stresses of fine-tuning Ireland’s Six Nations defensive system alongside stickler for detail Andy Farrell, and sidled up to the Rec for the first time in over a month, to see what the Rangers had in store.

Though the first team game between IWRFC and Sandown/Shanklin drew the lion’s share of attention, there were quite a few watching the second team match unfold as well. Fawley cried off the scheduled merit table game on Thursday, and the seconds were grateful that Sandown, with some help from neighbours Ventnor, could muster a team to provide friendly opposition. What ensued was the lowest scoring game of rugby O’Pinion has ever seen.

The Sandown/Ventnor combination won the game 5-0. That’s right – 5-0. Sandown scored a try after about 10 minutes, and that was it. Of course this doesn’t tell the whole story of the game, which featured plenty of effort and graft on both sides and no shortage of solid defence. But as whole-hearted as the exchanges were, it should also be said that the ability of either side to string many phases of continuity together was limited. The game hosts played into the strong wind in the first half, and mostly defended, which they did very well with Luke Herbert and James Webster standing out in this facet of the game. At half-time, IW would have been most people’s favourites to go on and win it.

That this didn’t happen was due to a combination of things – the winners defended well, and IW had very little good ball to play with, under pressure in both scrum and lineout. When they did play some rugby, errors were made and they couldn’t quite get the breakthrough. Positives (apart from the afore-mentioned grit) were the return of Nick Joyce to the fray and a generally very disciplined shift in defence, not least when camped on their line with 20 minutes to go and seeming certain to concede.

O’Pinion rushed over to the first team pitch on the final whistle, having just seen Owen score a try from his own kick-chase, and was informed that IW led by 10 with ‘not much’ time left. Sandown then promptly scored a controversial try in the corner to make it a one-score game, fielded the kick-off and launched a lengthy attack. The Rangers were not to be denied though, and as the match concluded breathed a jubilant sigh of relief.

Everyone knew it had been a long time since we’d beaten our IOW rivals, but how long? O’Pinion consulted his memory banks and remembered a victory at the Fortress in late 2003. Martin Palmer was playing and causing mayhem at the lineout. He then consulted his friend Statto and saw that this game was on 25 Oct. 2003, and IW won 22-6. Later that season, IW won at Sandown/Shanklin, 10-6, on 24 Jan. 2004. (That was the season the club was not far off gaining promotion to the London leagues, winning its first several games before a couple of key defeats later in the season.) There have been several seasons in the interim where IW and Sandown/Shanklin were in different leagues, but even so, yesterday’s visitors had constructed quite a string of victories, finally ended.

Wins like this are a testament to the hard work of the players, skipper Dan Stirrup and coach Dave Metcalfe. Now sixth in Hampshire One, a win at next week’s opponents (Ellingham & Ringwood) could put IW in fifth, and the top half of the league.

Poor old Ryan did some serious damage to his knee in the first team game, while not to be outdone, evergreen Stu Browne did something similar in the seconds game. But it was a day to be savoured regardless, and as many decamped to Cowes to share in the 50th birthday celebrations of club stalwart Andy Puckett, there was time to reflect on the joys of being part of this fine club. Rangers!

IW 2nds: Greaves, Fitton, Webster, McQueen, Ormerod, Williams, Cotter, Brine, Keyes, Martin, D Bishop, G Smith, Kearney, Herbert, Greedy ©. Replacements: D Rann, Tombleson, T Turtle, Willetts, Jones, Law, Browne, Joyce, E Wright.