Farnborough 24-19 IW
Isle of Wight RFC’s dream of Hampshire Plate glory died in a thrilling semi-final encounter at Farnborough. Both teams rose above the now accustomed rain and heavy conditions to serve up an exciting match which was in the balance until Farnborough’s winning try with the last play of the game.
The Islanders were short of a few regular players for various reasons of unavailability, but travelled with a strong squad and a large band of vocal supporters, so went in with confidence but in the knowledge that Farnborough were in good form and looking the most likely winners of Hampshire Two at this stage of the season. Though IW were under pressure for most of the first 20 minutes, they defended well and scored first courtesy of a Lewis Murray penalty. However, Farnborough’s renowned driving maul was in evidence shortly afterwards, making considerable ground and allowing a blind-side move which caught out the Islanders for the lead score, converted via the crossbar.
IW now settled and built some attacks of their own, which yielded two further Murray penalties and a 9-7 lead. A terrific battle between the forward packs persisted, with Ryan Stewart and Rouse Ltd man of the match Alex Smith standing out for IW. Frustratingly, IW were again breached shortly before half-time after a lapse in concentration, and the hosts led 14-9 at the short whistle.
The visitors remained optimistic, with wind advantage to come. Luke Chandler was introduced after a delayed arrival due to traffic, while Brett Evans (back from Africa on holiday) was also sprung from the bench. Yet Farnborough struck first and extended their lead to 19-9; IW were staring defeat in the face.
Not for the first time this season, IW rallied and played some of their best rugby, though good quality ball was hard to come by at times. It was a Murray interception that set up crucial position in the home 22, and after recycling through several phases, Stewart crashed over by the posts for a great score. The conversion left IW three points behind with 20 minutes still to play.
The match was now very much in the balance, with little between the sides in territory or possession, and IW seemed unable to overhaul the narrow deficit, until awarded a penalty with five minutes remaining. The 45 metre kick seemed ambitious, but Murray’s strike was magnificent and levelled the scores to jubilation from the Ranger faithful.
Extra time loomed large, but just as injury time began, Farnborough turned IW over in their own half and earned a scrum. Where IW had the better of the scrums in the first half, the tide had firmly turned, and two penalties were awarded allowing Farnborough into the 22 for another driving lineout maul. The first onslaught was repelled, but a powerful surge from their replacement prop saw him crash over and seal a dramatic victory.
IW were devastated but consoled themselves with the knowledge that they had performed with great heart. They now look to the remainder of the league campaign and the possibility of improving their Hampshire One league position.
IW: Warvill, Sweetman, Huish, Stirrup, Williams, Murray, Marriott, Keyes, McQueen, Newnham, A Smith, Raunigger, Pudney, D Blackman, Stewart. Replacements: Hatch, Chandler, Evans.
Thanks to Mark Newnham for the photographs.