IW II 20-0 Farnborough II
In their last league game of 2018, the Isle of Wight second team maintained their unbeaten run and their sizeable lead at the top of Hampshire Three with a hard-earned home win over a spirited Farnborough outfit, who travelled with 12 but were loaned various IW players throughout the match to ensure 15-a-side. Though missing some regulars, IW played well in parts and were good value for the points.
Heavy rain in the days leading up to the fixture abated just in time for kickoff, but left underfoot conditions heavy, somewhat blunting IW’s attacking edge, who had to work hard for every point in this tough encounter. The hosts started well and were probably at their best in the opening 20 minutes, with some superb offloading and support play. Yet Farnborough were determined in defence and gave up little to the waves of attack at first, until a multi-phase move ended with Nathan Tombleson crashing over under the posts after 10 minutes. Harry Elsom converted. A second try soon followed, with some spectacular if risky handling leading to fractures in the Boro rearguard, and allowing the supporting Neil Harrison to touch down for a super score and a 12-0 lead.
IW dominated possession and territory for the remainder of the half, but failed to add to their tally, primarily due to strong opposition defence. They also had a brief scare when a Farnborough player broke away but put a foot in touch. Despite the best efforts of Biffa man of the match Tom Groves and the evergreen Stuart Browne, it remained 12-0 at half-time.
It was more of the same in the second half, as IW had most of the play but struggled to achieve their early continuity, in spite of notable contributions by Adam Peckham and Luke Chandler on his seasonal debut. A bone-shaking tackle by replacement Salar Bettum was one of the highlights of the third quarter, before Tom Blowers kicked a 25 metre penalty to extend IW’s advantage.
Now Farnborough replied with a spell of fierce pressure on the IW line, but not for the first time this season, an organised and gritty rearguard action kept the whitewash intact and IW cleared. Finishing in the ascendancy and running the ball from deep, strong breaks by Blowers and James Fitton set up field position, before the powerful Andy White barrelled over for the final try. IW now hope for some friendly action to keep their match fitness up before their next league game at home to US Portsmouth on 12 January.
IW: Browne, Hooper, Hallam, White, M Joyce, Elsom, Hanson, Tombleson, Love, Blackburn, Harrison, D Bishop, T Groves, Guy, Cotter. Replacements: Chandler, Jones, Biles, Bettum, Blowers, N Joyce, Peckham, Fitton.