The game was a close fought one with IW’s sustained pressure proving impotent and Tottonians taking their chances as they were presented.
Early IW attacking pressure from second row combination of Callum Pudney and co-captain Andrew Brown led to a penalty for prop Ricky Keyes. Then it was Tottonians’ turn for some ball, the kick off and a resulting penalty leading to their powerful pack scoring a converted try from a driving maul. Then, a key turnover by the Tottonians forwards led to a brilliant try by their backs.
The second half saw IW kicking for territory more, the experienced head of co-captain Alex Augustus causing issues for Totts with his box kicking, whilst the eternally youthful Biffa Man of the Match Stuart Browne organising the back three well and kicking well into the opposition 22 helped to keep pressure on the opposition. This play led to sustained attacks and Luke Blackman scored a try from close distance.
Momentum swung back towards Tottonians though. A penalty led to a try from another powerful driving maul by the Totts pack. Subsequently, Totts added a penalty from pressure in the Isle of Wight half. IW fought back with a late rally, Luke Blackman again taking advantage of some sustained pressure scoring a try in the corner.
A break from the Totts number 13 from the restart with a scintillating line of running created an individual try for the outstanding three quarters on the park, to finish the game.
The Islanders will take some positives from the result into their next match, at home to Southampton Medics at Wootton Rec on Saturday.
IW: S Browne, C Browne, C Ormerod, D Blackman, E Toms, T Marriott, A Augustus, L Blackman, K Wallace, J Webster, A Brown, C Pudney, R Keyes, M Newnham, K Blackburn, I Puzey, D Bishop.
Elsewhere, the Isle of Wight RFC’s second team were defeated at Winchester in their first away game of the season, but gave a good account of themselves against strong and experienced opposition.
They were helped by a few of Locks Heath Pumas second string, who turned out for IW after their own game was called off, and made fine contributions all around.
With travel difficulties and late cry-offs affecting IW’s preparation to the extent that they only arrived at the venue 15 minutes before kickoff, they began in disjointed fashion and were over-run in the opening quarter-hour, playing up the slope.
Winchester were well drilled in the forwards and threatening in the backs, with some direct running and offloads unpicking the Island defence time and again. This wave led to 3 converted tries and a 21-0 lead for the hosts, and it looked ominous for IW.
Thanks to a gutsy forward display, IW gained a foothold in the game and the rest of the first half was much more evenly contested. The pattern of the game changed as IW enjoyed lots of possession thanks to their superior scrum and improving lineout, but found the Winchester defence to be rock solid despite bright moments from Fountain Inn man of the match Nick Joyce and debutant fly-half Chance Bonham.
After failing to break through, the difference in attacking cohesion between the teams was shown as Winchester constructed 2 more good tries before the break. The score at half-time was 33-0, and with Shane Lavell and Nick Blyth forced off through injury, it was a bleak picture for IW for all their effort.
Nonetheless, IW were now playing down the slope and the second half was a very different state of affairs, as they would spend almost the entire 40 minutes in the Winchester half. This did not translate into points initially, as Winchester defended tremendously well despite relentless carrying from the likes of Steve Dixon and Jayme Bishop, both of whom were held up over the line.
The hosts did give away numerous penalties in defence and this led to two yellow cards, but still IW could not score until no.8 Julian Beard crashed over.
Bonham converted, and Beard was soon over for another try after sustained IW pressure. Yet the deficit was too much to be realistically overhauled, and to underline their prowess in attack, Winchester did break out and scored the last try of the game.
Though disappointed to lose, IW took great solace from their performance outside the opening exchanges, especially given their patchwork team. Their next assignment is away to Hook & Odiham, while the first team entertain Southampton University Hospitals.
IW: Leahy C, Wynyard-Wright, Elsom, Langdon, Rolfe, Bonham, Blyth, S Lavell, Davis, Price, Dixon, J Bishop, Jones, N Joyce, Beard. Replacements: Ridoutt, Cox, J Lavell.
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