Putting the memory of recent defeat at Alresford behind them, Isle of Wight RFC 2XV scored a convincing win over the combined Millbrook RFC /Stoneham RFC second team in their final home game of the season. Though competitive, the match was a far cry from the 42-39 win at Millbrook earlier in the season, IW ensuring they remain top of Hampshire Three with four games remaining.
Isle of Wight faced a stiff breeze in the first half but took some time to get going, despite a dream start as the returning Luke Margham fielded the kickoff and found a narrow gap which he scorched through to open the scoring. The lead did not last long, as the mainlanders formed a powerful rolling maul which was collapsed by IW, yielding a penalty try. The next 20 minutes were closely fought and the spoils appeared up for grabs, as the hosts were forced to defend and struggled to maintain possession due to assorted errors. A second try from deep by the rapid Margham eased the tension, and IW led 14-7 after 25 minutes.
The remaining minutes before half-time effectively settled the contest, as IW established their gameplan, carrying purposefully and using their superior pace and support play, making notable inroads through Dan Bishop and Rouse Ltd man of the match Tom Groves, who was imperious in the lineout. A splendid move forced a penalty on the 22, which fly-half Gary Warvill tapped quickly to catch the opposition unaware, before Joss Spence plunged over. Shortly before half-time, Margham completed his hat-trick, finishing another great passage of play. Isle of Wight now led 24-7.
While the visitors were spirited throughout and had some threatening moments in the second half, Isle of Wight were now in control and played some fine rugby. On a day when the club could almost have fielded three teams but were left with only one fixture, IW had an extensive bench, which freshened up the Islanders but also served to bolster Millbrook/Stoneham when they ran out of players. The spectators were treated to a thrilling try by the experienced Warvill, while replacement and Biffa man of the day Alex Cole made an impact at centre, scoring twice. A further line break by captain Matt Hallam ended as he unselfishly parted to Adam Peckham to touch down, while Margham added conversions to five of the tries to round off the scoring.
There were debuts to celebrate for wingers Xavier Spence and Cameron Browne (lining out alongside his father Stuart), and returns to action after long absences for Luke Chandler and Chris Ormerod. IW now face into a run of four away games which will define their season and whether they can land the league title, starting on Saturday at Portsmouth III.
Isle of Wight RFC 2XV: S Browne, C Browne, J Spence, Margham, Hallam, Warvill, Elsom, Tombleson, Guy, Davey, Blackburn, D Bishop, T Groves, Bettum, White. Replacements: Newnham, Jones, Chandler, Cole, Williams, Blowers, Ormerod, Peckham, X Spence.