An extraordinary Hampshire One battle at Wootton Rec went Overton’s way, leaving Isle of Wight ruing a disastrous start but proud of a storming comeback which just fell short.
Not for the first time this season, IW only played to their potential when well behind on the scoreboard.
Isle of Wight 32-38 Overton
On a day when the Islanders sported their new kit for the first time and welcomed sponsors from the Fountain Inn, Cowes, they could hardly have made a worse start to the game.
Overton scored an all too easy try after 2 minutes, and it seemed that anything that could go wrong did so for the next few minutes, as the referee’s whistle, the bounce of the oval ball and IW dithering all conspired to see the hosts concede 2further tries. They trailed 21-0 after 8 minutes and were already up against it.
Belatedly, IW set to work and their hefty forward pack controlled the scrums and strung together some strong driving play, though pressure often resulted in a penalty the other way, which Overton’s impressive kicker used to clear with interest.
However, IW set up a great maul which travelled fully 40 metres to the line, and though they did not cross at first, the ball was recycled for Ian Puzey to touch down and open the account.
Biffa man of the match Ricky Keyes soon added a penalty goal and the deficit appeared manageable at 21-8. Unfortunately, the half closed much as it started for IW, Overton scoring 2 tries without having to work especially hard for their scores.
Converting one of them, they led 33-8 at half-time and the outcome appeared virtually settled.
The Island started the second period as Overton had started the first, and ensured a completely different story for the rest of the game. With co-captain and Fountain Inn man of the match Andrew Brown carrying tirelessly and effectively, and the pack cajoled forward by scrum-half Alex Augustus, space was created and exploited by the backs for club chairman Stuart Browne to touch down within minutes of his introduction.
Momentum now completely shifted as IW were rampant and constructed an early contender for try of the season, keeping the ball alive well before player-coach Keith Wallace made a thrilling break from halfway.
He was finally scragged short of the line, but skilfully offloaded to the supporting Luke Blackman for the score. Keyes converted, and IW soon had their four-try bonus with more exciting handling ending in Tom Marriott offloading to Evan Toms to touch down. Overton still led, but now only 33-25.
Overton dug in and managed to stem the IW tide for a spell, defending strongly but struggling to maintain possession of their own.
There followed the most serious of a few controversial incidents in the game, a late tackle on an Islander being swiftly followed by a blatant kick on the prone player, which went unpunished to the surprise of the IW team and spectators, similarly to another high and late tackle in the first half.
Yet this incident may have galvanised the hosts further, and their dominant scrum pushed their opponents over the line for Blackman to touch down for his second.
Keyes’ conversion left IW trailing by a single point and apparently on course for the most unlikely of comebacks, but an excellent restart by Overton allowed them to turn over possession and score their sixth try of the game.
The conversion was missed though, and IW still had time on the clock, needing a converted try for a 1 point win. They were helped by a yellow card to Overton for another high tackle, and IW launched one last attack as time expired. For a fleeting moment, the backs had a blindside overlap, but to Overton’s credit, they scrambled well and forced the knock-on, greeting the final whistle with a mixture of relief and jubilation.
IW earned 2 bonus points in defeat, but frustratingly looked back on another game they could have won.
Tottonians II are the first team’s next opponents on the mainland next Saturday. IW seconds were disappointed to be granted another home walkover, and they travel to Winchester on the same day.
IW: Toms, Wynyard-Wright, Waterer, D Blackman, C Browne, Marriott, Augustus, Puzey, Newnham, Keyes, D Bishop, Blackburn, Wallace, Brown, L Blackman. Replacements: McQueen, N Joyce, S Browne.
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