Sandown & Shanklin RFC 30-24 Isle of Wight RFC
This much anticipated local derby, the first of the season, did not disappoint as the rival Island clubs served up a thrilling encounter at the Fairway. Pre-match favourites Sandown merited their victory in the final analysis, though they were put to the test by a spirited IW performance, which yielded the losing side a well deserved bonus point for finishing within seven points.
A large attendance gathered as the earlier heavy rain relented, and the teams mostly made light of tricky conditions to produce a good standard of rugby. IW came out of the blocks quickly, playing with the advantage of the slope and roaring into attack. A sumptuous planned move saw flying wing Henry Edwards touch down for a fine converted try. The home side fought their way back and pressurised the IW defence, scoring a penalty goal, which was shortly to be cancelled out by a like Lewis Murray score.
By now, some pattern had emerged, as Sandown had more of possession and battered at the IW defence, which had been porous in recent weeks but was much more resilient on the night, despite the loss of Martin Tanner to injury. Eventually Sandown broke through for a try, and shortly before half-time scored another. The latter was converted, and the eventual victors led 15-10 at the break.
With the slope now in their favour, Sandown appeared strong favourites to prevail, and they played a very effective territorial game in the second half, pinning IW back for sustained periods. It was far from one-way traffic, though, as IW looked threatening themselves. They were having particular success at the breakdown, where Rouse Ltd man of the match Lewy Morton was influential. When a Sandown move broke down, centre Owen Herbert was quickest to the loose ball, kicking through and regathering but being denied the score by a superb cover tackle. IW capitalised on their time in opposition territory though, as they strung phases together before Alex Smith barged over for the try. Murray’s conversion gave IW a 17-15 lead.
The next part of the game proved crucial, as Sandown played to their strengths, most notably a very impressive lineout and rolling maul. They regularly made significant yardage in this manner, and when Smith illegally brought down one such maul, he was sent to the sin-bin. During this ten minutes, the already pressurised IW scrum was decimated with seven men, and yielded two pushover tries to the hosts.
IW were now forced to play from even deeper in an effort to recover the eight-point deficit that had opened up, but when a move broke down, Sandown took advantage and scored again for a 30-17 lead. With 10 minutes still to play, the momentum of the match suggested that Sandown could open up a big winning margin, but IW had other ideas. They drove at the heart of the Sandown defence, forcing penalty after penalty, leading to a yellow card for a Sandown replacement. Brett Evans then made a searing break which gave the IW good field position, before the electrifying Herbert received the ball in space, rounding the defence to score a memorable try. Murray completed a perfect kicking record with the angled conversion, and IW were back within a score with a few minutes still to play. They retained the ball well in an effort to seal a dramatic win, but Sandown’s rearguard held firm and the final whistle heralded the end of a thoroughly entertaining tussle.
IW: Stirrup ©, Edwards, Herbert, Wood, Rann, Murray, Lind, Tanner, Tennant, Newnham, A Smith, Brown, Evans, Morton, Stewart. Replacements: G Smith, Toms, Warvill.