Match report: 1sts v Sandown & Shanklin (A), Sat. 27 Jan. 2018

Sandown & Shanklin 15-9 IW

A titanic Hampshire One local derby went the way of the home side at the Fairway. The match was shaped by difficult conditions, due to persistent rain for the whole 80 minutes, but credit goes to both teams for some impressive handling and link play along with inevitable errors. Ultimately, Sandown/Shanklin deserved the win for their three tries, and crucially took the lead during the second half on a day when chasing the game would be more challenging than usual because of the weather. Nevertheless, IW showed great fortitude from an unpromising second half position and threatened to wrest back the advantage in a thrilling final quarter.

IW’s injury list had shortened considerably in advance of this fixture, but misfortune befell them again during the first half, losing experienced forwards Ollie Boulter and Dan Tennant to injuries. They played with the advantage of a significant breeze and slope, and started well with a Lewis Murray penalty goal after five minutes. However, S&S took control of possession for the next 20 minutes or so. IW defended a series of attacks well, but eventually the hosts got into the opposition 22 and scored from a close range drive to lead 5-3.

IW had trouble clearing their lines at times, but managed to get some advantageous territory and applied some pressure to the home side. IW’s scrum was on top throughout the game, though lineout possession could not be relied upon by either team in the challenging weather. Murray added his second penalty to regain the lead, and was narrowly wide soon after with a further effort. S&S again threatened just before half-time, leading to a yellow card for replacement Ricky Keyes and yet more disruption to the IW line-up, who did lead 6-5 at the break.

Sandown & Shanklin were certainly favourites to take the spoils at this stage, with slope and wind advantage to come, but IW started the second half brightly and extended their lead thanks to Murray’s third penalty. Yet the winners set about taking advantage of the extra player, stretching the IW defence and allowing their winger to step inside the cover for the lead score. Within ten minutes, they had a third try courtesy of some slick handling along the backline. Neither try was converted, so S&S led 15-9 with over 20 minutes still to play.

Matters seemed grim for the IW, with the elements against them and having struggled to get out of their half for a spell. However, they would respond with their best period of the game, playing the remainder of the game in Sandown territory. Dan Stirrup and Ryan Stewart were hugely impressive while Rouse Ltd man of the match David Blackman completed tireless work, and IW kept possession well. Luke Chandler also impressed when pressed into service in the unfamiliar surrounds of flanker. That IW didn’t break through for a potentially match-winning try was due to determined home defence and occasional errors in possession. The final whistle blew, leaving IW disappointed but reflecting on a match in which they showed great heart and no little skill, which will take them forward with optimism into the next two big matches; at home to league leaders United Services and then away to Farnborough in a plate semi-final.

IW: Stirrup, Sweetman, Chandler, Wood, Herbert, Murray, Marriott, Tennant, McQueen, Newnham, A Smith, Boulter, Hay, D Blackman, Stewart. Replacements: Pudney, Keyes, Williams.