Alresford II 24-19 IW II
Isle of Wight RFC’s second team lost their previously unbeaten record in dramatic fashion at Alresford. An incident-packed affair appeared likely to finish honours even, until the hosts manufactured the winning score in the 79th minute to break the hearts of the gallant Islanders.
IW travelled understrength for this Hampshire Three fixture and were under no illusions about the task ahead, but they started well with piercing attacking play which yielded a penalty. No. 8 Andy White took the tap quickly and crashed over to open the scoring. This lead was not to last long, as Alresford fought back impressively and exploited disjointed IW defence for a converted try.
Before 10 minutes had elapsed, the game was brought to a halt as a serious leg injury to a home player led to a 40 minute stoppage before the ambulance could arrive. Neither side seemed particularly affected by the long wait as the frenetic opening pace continued on the restart. The first half generally saw attacks on top, as both teams’ rearguards struggled to remain intact. IW regained the lead as White again touched down and full-back Kieran Leahy converted, but Alresford again replied in kind. The powerful carrying of Rouse Ltd man of the match White continued to pay dividends, as he completed his hat-trick before the break. Leahy again added the extras, but there was still time for Alresford to catch IW napping, levelling the scores at 19-19 at half-time.
The second half was in stark contrast to the first, as defences now took over and scores completely dried up. IW had a good spell of pressure in the third quarter, inspired by replacement Dan Bishop and tireless flanker Salar Bettum. Importantly though, they did not make it count on the scoreboard. Leahy was short with a long-range penalty attempt, while White was denied his fourth try in controversial circumstances, as the referee did not see the ball grounded.
As the three-quarter mark passed, the game started to shift towards the home side. IW were now racking up several injuries and did not have enough replacements to serve their needs, while Alresford were able to use their large squad. The earlier delay now also made its presence felt, as the hosts had the option to roll on a couple of their first team squad from their finished game on the adjoining pitch. The last 15 minutes was played in the IW half with a large home crowd urging their team on, but the IW defence remained strong until near the very end, when the impressive Alresford backline created an overlap and exploited the space to score the winning try.
IW were disappointed to lose the rare opportunity of an unbeaten season, but agreed to redouble their efforts to capture the league title. They are next in action at home to Millbrook & Stoneham on March 2, their final home game of the season.
IW: Leahy, Hallam, Fu, Spence, N Joyce, Elsom, Hanson, Martin, Guy, Davey, Jones, Biles, T Groves, Bettum, White. Replacements: D Bishop, J Bishop.