Match report: Squad game v London Cornish, Sat. 22 Aug. 2015

IW 31 London Cornish XV 7

Isle of Wight began their 2015-16 campaign with a good victory in the first of three planned pre-season fixtures. In many ways it was a perfect pre-season hit-out, as despite the scoreline, the game was closely contested for the most part. It also highlighted issues that the coaches and players will want to iron out before Hampshire One commences on 19 September.

Played in four periods to facilitate squad rotation, there was little between the sides until the last 20 minutes, when the visitors tired. They had fewer replacements than IW, but the winners also had the edge in pace around the park and capitalised when the gaps appeared. There were precious few openings early on though, and the first score did not materialise until 20 minutes in when impressive debutant Aaron James delivered a beautiful offload for George Huish to score in the corner.

After some early teething problems, the IW scrum assumed dominance, but they will want to address their lineout which did not function well. Cornish also had some joy turning over IW ball at the tackle area, and winning several penalties. This led to some pressure on the IW defence, but they stood up to this effectively. Following a long period of scoreless play, Sam McQueen crashed over by the corner flag, before Dan Greaves stepped inside his man to score a third try.

IW were now playing some fine rugby, highlighted by a sumptuous offload by Alex Smith for Huish to add his second touchdown. It was far from one way traffic though, and while IW will have been disappointed not to keep a clean sheet, Cornish’s converted try entering the final ten minutes was the least they deserved. The hosts had the last word with a good score by Tom Hatch, the result of a spell of pressure involving forwards and backs. Lewis Murray converted the last three tries.

In total, IW used 28 players, including two who played for the opposition when their resources were stretched. With several more players to re-integrate in the coming weeks, head coach Dave Metcalfe and new captain Dan Stirrup are optimistic ahead of the new campaign. IW anticipate a higher standard of opposition next time out (Saturday 29th), as they host Chichester 3rds.

IW: Stirrup, James, Cunningham, Taylor, Huish, Murray, Cotter, Newnham, Tucker, M Tanner, Andy Brown, A Smith, G Smith, Wallace, Freeman, Tombleson, Brine, Boulter, Hatch, Lynch, Gregory, Sorayapour, Evans, McQueen, Greaves, Hugo, Dixon, Keyes.