Southampton II 34 IW II 37
In their final away match of the season, Isle of Wight RFC’s second string snatched a dramatic victory at Test Park and kept up their challenge for third place in Hampshire South-West, with three home matches left to conclude the season.
Fielding one of their youngest line-ups in several seasons, IW faced up to the hosts who called upon a number of university players and were stronger than their lowly league position suggested. Yet IW were quickest into their stride, moving the ball with purpose and finding gaps at will in the Southampton backline. A barrelling run by Sam McQueen was supported by Dan Bishop who opened the scoring inside three minutes, converted by Rouse Ltd man of the match James Fitton, who played well in the fly-half role. Tom Turtle added a second in the tenth minute, and when George Huish cut through for another score, IW led 17-0 after 20 minutes.
A big win seemed on the cards for IW, but the second and third quarters of the game will not be looked back on with any satisfaction, as their fine start appeared to breed complacency. Southampton also deserve credit for forcing their way into the game, but IW lost their defensive shape and fell off a number of tackles on the home side’s big runners. Southampton opened their account from a rolling maul, but IW did retort quickly with Huish’s second try. The sides exchanged further scores before the break, Turtle registering for the Islanders, who led 27-10 at the short whistle.
Southampton now had hope, and IW were unable to break free of their slump, constantly on the wrong end of the referee’s whistle. The early one-way traffic had now been reversed, and the hosts exploited their visitors’ lethargy. Scoring two converted tries in the third quarter, they closed to within three points, and with one of their best tries on the hour mark, took a 29-27 lead.
Belatedly, IW roused themselves, and the closing 20 minutes were played in a welter of excitement. Ryan Tulloch’s dominance of the lineout ensured IW had possession, while their scrum was steadfast against bigger opposition. A scintillating stretch of phases saw Huish complete his hat-trick to regain the lead, but Southampton’s effective rolling maul again led to a try, giving them a 34-32 lead with four minutes remaining.
IW desperately tried to engineer a winning score, showing great character for such a young side but struggling to break through a rejuvenated home team who were down to 14 men after a scuffle and sinbinning. As time elapsed, IW had a lineout in their own half and needed to throw caution to the wind. The electric Huish was almost through down the far touchline but was scragged at the 22, but the ball was recycled and moved back across the pitch. Second row Bishop received the ball in space, and handed off two tacklers for a memorable winning try, celebrated with joy and no little relief by the IW team.
IW: Sabin, Rogers, McQueen, Huish, Cansdale, Fitton, Cotter ©, Brine, Love, Keyes, Aubert, D Bishop, Turtle, Tulloch, Freeman. Replacements: Greaves, Wynyard-Wright, Leahy.