IW II 22 Romsey II 27
Isle of Wight RFC’s second string concluded their Hampshire South-West campaign with a narrow home defeat against Romsey, leaving them with a likely fourth place finish in the league. It was planned that both clubs would also play a first team friendly on the day, but when Romsey cancelled that fixture on the morning of the game, they could field a bolstered team for the second team fixture. With continued excellent player availability leading to a huge squad, IW did not need to call on their first teamers who lent support from the touchline. They used 28 players in all, only captain Colman Cotter and Reuben Mitchell playing the full 80 minutes. Mitchell’s role in a dominant scrum and in the loose won him the man of the match award.
A fast and open game of eight tries ensued with both teams playing expansive rugby in great conditions, though a strong wind blew down the pitch and favoured IW in the first half. Romsey were more direct with an edge in the forward exchanges and took the lead with a converted try, but IW were soon on the attack, debutant flanker Calvin Edwards showing up well. The initial opportunity was not taken after the final pass went astray, but from a quick penalty, no. 8 Alex Smith crashed over for the try.
Attacks were on top in the opening quarter, Romsey exploiting some IW defensive indecision for a second try from their main danger man and a 12-5 lead. IW again replied before long, as a fine move was finished by speed merchant Dan Greaves. The second quarter was scoreless as the pace of the game slowed a little, and Romsey took a 12-10 lead into the break.
IW made a total of ten substitutions at half-time, which was always likely to lead to a period of confusion, but to their credit many of the replacements made immediate impacts. Yet Romsey took advantage of the wind at their backs, having the better of territory for a spell, kicking a penalty and then scoring a good try to extend their lead to 20-10 after 50 minutes. IW struggled at the breakdown and with the referee’s interpretation of the laws, but always posed a threat when generating quick ball. Fly-half James Fitton had almost scored a memorable try in the first half, but showed his pace when finishing off a fine move in the corner for a score which he brilliantly converted himself.
Now in the ascendancy and cheered on by a big crowd, IW took the lead with another super try by replacement Ryan Cooper. To Romsey’s credit, they fought back. Though IW defence was creditable at first, it wilted and yielded a converted try with four minutes remaining. The hosts had two more chances to rescue the game, but errors forced by resolute Romsey defence proved their undoing. IW emerged with credit from the match and a successful league season, which featured improved player availability and regular fixtures for most of the season. They conclude the season with two home friendlies against Hook & Odiham and Locksheath Pumas.
IW: Blackman, Greaves, McQueen, Cox, J Bishop, Fitton, Cotter ©, Mitchell, Tucker, Willetts, Harrison, Greedy, Edwards, Rob Vaughan, A Smith, Love, Savill, Aubert, Turtle, Vince, White, W Vaughan, Rich Vaughan, Sabin, Wynyard-Wright, Cooper, Stirrup, Wood.