Isle of Wight RFC’s seconds edged a rip-roaring tussle at
Farnborough RFC in dramatic style, confirming a Hampshire Three title decider next Saturday at second placed Hook & Odiham RFC. In a seesaw struggle which saw the lead change hands several times, IW salvaged a remarkable victory despite adverse circumstances.
A depleted lineup saw Isle of Wight only have 16 players for this fixture, but they began purposefully with strong running and fine support play. After initial Farnborough resistance, slick hands along the backline saw the ball eventually fed back inside for full-back Tom Blowers to touch down in the corner. This impressive opening 10 minutes was responded to rapidly by the home side, who made several substitutions with immediate effect, introducing their Pacific island contingent who arrived late.
A further blow saw experienced scrum-half Colman Cotter forced off through injury, Isle of Wight having to use their only replacement early on, though Matt Spencer-Brading switched to no. 9 and filled in admirably. Now it was Isle of Wight on the back foot, struggling to contain the rampant hosts who scored twice to lead 10-5 after 30 minutes.
Isle of Wight remained dangerous when in possession, and a loose kick by Farnborough gave Blowers possession 30 metres out. He chipped over the top and tackled the fielding home player on the try line; the ball spilled loose for impressive debutant Jordan Langdon to gather and touch down. Biffa man of the match Blowers converted and kicked a penalty before half-time, as a resurgent Isle of Wight now led 15-10.
Though leading, the Islanders knew that the game was very much in the balance, so started the second half with vigour as captain for the day Andy White crashed through two tackles to double Isle of Wight’s margin of superiority. Again, Farnborough replied with a raft of substitutions which changed the course of the game. Where Isle of Wight had been on top in the scrum early on, they were now under pressure, while their lineout was uncharacteristically sloppy. Farnborough soon scored a five-pointer, and then a converted try was awarded by an unsighted referee, hotly disputed by the visitors who maintained that the ball had been knocked forward in the act of grounding.
The power and pace of Farnborough threatened to overwhelm the gallant Isle of Wight side, and their fifth try left the score at 27-20 with 15 minutes to play. Not for the first time this season, the Wight warriors seemed dead and buried, but they collectively raised their game and dug themselves out of a hole. George Biles carried well, while Rouse Ltd man of the match Jim Willetts was a huge influence at the breakdown. Setting up camp in the Farnborough 22, Isle of Wight wasted an opportunity before a great try was finished at the corner flag by Salar Bettum. Blowers’ conversion attempt bounced back off the crossbar, and Isle of Wight still trailed by two with less than 10 minutes to play.
Again Isle of Wight roared back, forcing Farnborough to concede penalties to keep them at bay. Gary Warvill attempted an angled kick to give IW the lead but was narrowly wide, before an easier opportunity with two minutes to play was kicked by the seasoned fly-half. Now the Islanders just had to retain possession to the final whistle, which they did to spark scenes of jubilation for the whole club, as the first team also recorded victory.
The Isle of Wight RFC 2XV travel to second-placed Hook & Odiham on Saturday for their penultimate game of the campaign in the knowledge that the entire season is on the line; win and they are champions, lose and they will almost certainly finish second.
Isle of Wight RFC 2XV: Blowers, Langdon, Bettum, White, Leahy, Warvill, Cotter, Willetts, McQueen, Davey, Biles, Jones, T Groves, Spencer-Brading, N Joyce, Harrison.
Isle of Wight RFC
Hook & Odiham RFC