IW II 36-17 Lymington Mariners
Isle of Wight’s second team took a significant step towards their target of the league title by overcoming nearest challengers Lymington in a fine contest on a heavy Wootton Rec pitch. As has been the case so many times this season so far, IW based their triumph on whole-hearted defence and some timely displays of attacking verve.
After a narrow but bruising victory at Lymington in October, the Islanders knew their 100% record would come under threat here, and facing a gusty wind in the first half they found themselves frequently in their own half. The action moved to and fro early on, before IW moved the ball at pace on 14 minutes and experienced fly-half Gary Warvill kicked through. He was first to the ball and hacked through to touch down, slightly against the run of play.
Lymington had a weight advantage in the pack, and this manifested itself in the early scrums, as they shoved IW fully 20 metres on one occasion. When the Mariners set up camp five metres out, they used their strong scrum to get within inches before eventually powering over to level the scores. To IW’s credit, their scrum soon improved to a point where they achieved near parity for the rest of the match.
The game continued to entertain but IW suffered a blow as a defensive error led to a converted try for the visitors who now led 12-5. Though with the breeze to come in the second half, IW seemed in difficulty, but a crucial three minute spell shortly before half-time turned the game. Firstly, the excellent Tom Groves disrupted Mariners lineout ball on their own five metre line, and the returning Dan Tennant reacted first to plunge over by the corner flag. Not long after the restart, a sweeping move full of pace and skilled handling led to a try for the quicksilver Luke Margham, which he himself converted for a 17-12 half-time lead.
In the second half, IW started to look more threatening with more favourable territory. Yet they still had to do their share of determined defending, as the Mariners had more possession overall and drove at the heart of the IW rearguard. But with Biffa man of the match Andy White and Salar Bettum prominent, the victors had their measure. Margham added his second try and conversion, and also improved a further score by centre Joss Spence, which completed another scintillating passage of play.
The game now seemed settled, but Mariners made their way into IW territory and a series of close range drives saw them squeeze over to bring the score to 31-17. IW’s response was telling, as Rouse Ltd man of the match Warvill made the break and Tennant finished off the move for the concluding score.
IW continue to sit pretty at the top of Hampshire Three, but with five of their six remaining games away from home, there is much work still to do, starting at Alresford on Saturday.
IW: Blowers, J Bishop, Spence, Margham, Hallam ©, Warvill, Elsom, Tombleson, Tennant, Davey, Harrison, Jones, T Groves, Bettum, White. Replacements: Willetts, Biles, Reed, N Joyce, Williams, Cole.