Report: 2nds v Basingstoke (A), Sat. 14 Nov. 2015

Basingstoke III 10 IW II 7

The Isle of Wight second string were narrowly defeated in a tremendous struggle at wet and windy Basingstoke. Travelling with only 13 players, IW arrived at the venue to discover that Basingstoke’s second team game had been cancelled, meaning they would be facing a reinforced third team. It looked like being a long and difficult 80 minutes for the Islanders, but they responded with perhaps their best performance of the season so far and were distinctly unfortunate not to come away with the win.

Basingstoke were good enough to loan IW two prop forwards, allowing the game to be played 15 a side and with contested scrums. This development aided IW as they were on top in the scrum for much of the game, especially in the opening half. Captain Mark Westley opted to play with the strong breeze. Effective kicking by half-backs Kieran Leahy and Nathan Tombleson helped to set up field position, while a hugely committed performance by the IW pack with Neil Harrison prominent ensured that their team spent virtually the entire first half in opposition territory. The pattern of the game was soon established, as IW earned plenty of possession, but got little change out of an organised and determined home defence. The first 35 minutes were scoreless, until Basingstoke broke out, kicked ahead twice, and won the race to the touchdown. This score was very much against the run of play, but gave the hosts a 5-0 lead at half-time.

Now facing the elements, matters appeared bleak for the visitors, and Basingstoke were soon on the attack. A slick backline move appeared to have cut the Island apart, but a great cover tackle by full-back Grant Sabin forced a blatant knock-on from the home winger on the goal-line. However, the otherwise excellent referee was unsighted and awarded a try, despite even the home touch judge advising a knock forward!

This could have been a hammer blow to IW, but their response showed great fortitude. Keeping the ball in hand, IW resumed their territorial dominance of the first half, stringing together multiple phases and driving at the heart of the ‘Stoke defence. All played their part, but joint Rouse Ltd men of the match Mark Tucker and Tom Turtle were tireless, captain Westley led by example, and the returning Ashley Wright was back to his best. Eventually, after a move lasting 15 to 20 phases, the powerful Dan Bishop was able to crash over for a try. Tucker added the tricky conversion, and with 15 minutes to play, IW were back within three.

The game now opened up a little, as Basingstoke kicked more efficiently and threatened with their limited possession, but IW scrambled well. They tried everything to break through for a potential winning score, but the home defence was, to its credit, impregnable and they saw out the match to the final whistle. Both teams congratulated one another on a great tussle – IW were proud of their performance, though ruing the rather dubious try awarded against them. They look forward to hosting Millbrook next time out in good spirits.

IW: Sabin, J Bishop, T Greedy, Turtle, Wynyard-Wright, Tombleson, Leahy, Love, Harrison, D Bishop, Tucker, A Wright, Westley ©.