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Report: 2nds v US Portsmouth (H), Sat. 12 Jan. 2019

IW II 39-17 United Services II

Isle of Wight RFC’s second team opened 2019 with a victory to continue their dominance of Hampshire Three, though not without a stern test from US Portsmouth. The mainland side travelled to Wootton Rec with a team much improved from their heavy reverse in the return fixture in September, and it was only a three try salvo in the final ten minutes that ensured victory for IW.

From the off it was evident that IW would have to play well to win, as a hefty Services side carried strongly and had an edge in the set scrums, forcing an early penalty for a 3-0 lead. The opening quarter featured some quality rugby but neither side could establish a foothold in the opposing territory, until a sublime IW try was scored by Tom Blowers, the beneficiary of a flowing move which went from left to right and back again.

IW began to have slightly more of the play as the game developed, with punishing carries from experienced duo Nathan Tombleson and Jim Willetts, and notably Rouse Ltd man of the match George Biles. USP largely stood up to these assaults, but when gaps appeared, IW took full advantage, with two tries from centre Salar Bettum in quick succession, converted by Blowers. At 19-3, IW seemed in shape to push on, but were undone by a spell of pressure which culminated in a converted try for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.

USP were clearly buoyed by this score as they added another shortly after the restart, a penalty try awarded after an illegal tackle halted a certain try. IW’s lead had now dwindled to two points and the game was up for grabs. The hosts responded by steadily taking control of territory and mixing their game wonderfully, attacking directly to draw in defenders before going wide to good effect. Such a move gave replacement Adam Peckham enough space to crash over and give IW a little breathing space after 55 minutes.

The score remained at 24-17 for the next 15 minutes, and though USP were still within a score, in truth IW were now on top in general play, though unable to make it count. The Services’ defence was strong but tiring, and injury would have reduced them to 14 but for IW player Jayme Bishop offering to step in. Meanwhile, IW were able to bring in some fresh legs to renew their attacking efforts.

As the last ten minutes ticked away, a crucial score was logged by the powerful Biles. This seemed to demoralise the visitors, who were immediately back under their posts as the kickoff was fed to replacement Alex Cole, who marked his debut with a  stunning solo run from his own 22 to score a memorable try. There was still time for Biffa man of the day Bettum to complete his hat-trick with the game’s last action, though there was a hint of a knock-forward in the build-up. In truth, the scoreline was harsh on USP, who contributed handsomely to a fine game, though IW fully deserved their win after an impressive showing.

IW’s next action is away to Kingsclere on 26 January.

IW: Browne, Williams, Spence, Bettum, Blowers, Elsom, Hallam ©, Davey, Tombleson, Willetts, Raunigger, Biles, Guy, Spencer-Brading, N Joyce. Replacements: Cole, D Bishop, J Bishop, Jones, Martin, Peckham, Miles, Edmonds.

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