Match report: 1sts v US Portsmouth (H), Sat. 3 Feb. 2018

IW 6-43 US Portsmouth

United Services showed why they have a 100% record in Hampshire One this season with a comprehensive victory over Isle of Wight. The Portsmouth-based side gave a consummate wet-weather performance and were certainly the best opposition IW have faced this season.

Persistent drizzle and heavy ground made conditions difficult for both sides, but IW started very well and controlled the opening ten minutes, forcing Services to infringe. Three of these penalties were awarded in kickable range, and Lewis Murray was on the mark with two of these, though just short with the longest effort. IW led 6-0 and an upset seemed possible.

Once USP got their hands on some possession, the pattern of the game was established. Dominating the scrums and fielding a host of big runners, they played ideal rugby for the conditions, attacking close to the breakdown and making steady ground. IW’s defensive structure held, but the demand being placed on their rearguard action prevented line speed and USP regularly got over the gainline. This tactic paid dividends as the winners scored a converted try to take the lead after 25 minutes, and soon added another. IW remained competitive, but suffered a major blow when conceding a penalty try at the scrum on the stroke of half-time, turning a manageable 12-6 deficit into a more daunting 19-6 one.

The second half largely followed the pattern of the second quarter, as US dominated the ball and pressurised the overworked IW defence. Tireless defence from the likes of Alex Hay and Mike Wood was a feature of the home performance, but US were patient and added three fine tries before the hour mark, putting the contest out of sight.

There was still time for IW to break out of their own territory and they had much more of the ball in the final quarter, including a lengthy spell in the USP 22 as they sought a consolation score. The difference between the sides was evident as the Services absorbed the pressure and then were able to clear their lines, before having the final say with a try shortly before the end.

IW knew they had been well beaten, but look forward with relish to their Hampshire Plate semi-final at Farnborough next week.

IW: Warvill, Sweetman, Stirrup, Wood, Huish, Murray, Marriott, Keyes, McQueen, Newnham, A Smith, Egan, Stewart, D Blackman, Hay. Replacements: Rhys Martin, Raunigger, Williams.

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