IW 11-27 Alton
Isle of Wight RFC succumbed to joint league leaders Alton in perhaps the worst conditions in recent memory at Wootton Rec. The combination of low temperatures, persistent rain, slippery turf and high winds tested the resolve of players and spectators alike, and made the exchanges something of a lottery at times. However, there was no denying that the mainlanders deserved their win thanks to a dominant second-half showing.
With the considerable wind advantage in the first half, IW knew they would need to establish a buffer by half-time, but the first 15 minutes saw both teams struggle to impose themselves. As the half wore on, the home side took over territorially and put together some good phases of play, though ball retention was a tremendous challenge all afternoon. Crucially, Alton’s defence bent but did not break during this period, yielding only two penalties within kicking distance, both of which were accurately steered through by Lewis Murray. IW led 6-0 at the break.
It seemed likely that this lead was insufficient, and so it proved as Alton wiped it out inside three minutes of the restart with a series of drives and a try under the posts to lead 7-6. Inevitably, Alton were now able to pin IW back with their kicking game, and the onus was on the home side to run it back. Biffa man of the match Connor Grant did an admirable job at full-back in trying circumstances, but IW could not get out of their own half as Alton were organised in defence and notably strong over the ball. The visitors then kicked a penalty to extend their lead.
As conditions deteriorated, Alton took over and exploited miscommunication in the IW rearguard to score twice in quick succession. Belatedly, IW made some inroads with strong carries by Grant Smith and Sam McQueen, before the latter burst over for a try after some great combination play. It proved no more than a consolation, Alton having the final word after a well placed kick through caused confusion for the IW cover.
Both sets of players were applauded by the spectators for enduring such dreadful weather and completing the 80 minutes. An IW club XV will play against a Layla’s Trust XV at Wootton Rec on 29 Dec., before the league campaign resumes at Romsey on 5 January.
IW: Grant, Hooper, Rann, Chandler, Ormerod, Murray, Marriott, Puzey, McQueen, Newnham, G Smith, Raunigger, L Blackman, D Blackman, Andy Brown. Reps: A Groves, Augustus, Blackburn.
IW II 25-0 Alton II
The second teams of both clubs arranged a friendly match, IW lending several players to the depleted opposition. Conditions verged on impossible but both sides did their best, IW dominating by keeping possession and running hard and straight. Tries came from Jayme Bishop, Salar Bettum (2), visiting player Caleb Mitchell and Harry Elsom. IW II maintained their excellent record this season, and have now conceded a total of only 17 points in 5 home games, including three clean sheets. They next travel to Romsey for a friendly on 5 January.
IW: Reed, J Bishop, Bettum, Angus Brown, Elsom, Mitchell, Hanson, Tennant, Ridley, Biles, Guy, Bennett, N Joyce, T Groves, Jones, Spencer-Brading, Cole, D Bishop, Martin.