Hurricanes Narrowly Defeated by Basingstoke in Titanic Clash at the Fairway
Sandown & Shanklin RFC 17 - 20 Basingstoke RFC
The return fixture promised another top of the table clash between 1st and 2nd in Hampshire Premier, as leaders Basingstoke traveled to the island for their first-ever trip to the Fairway in modern times. Last time out the 50 - 0 scoreline somewhat flattered the hosts on the day, and the Hurricanes were both desperate to put the record straight and also reel in the visitors in the league table.
The contest started as most would have expected, a very physical and unyielding effort from both sides in the opening exchanges. Yet, it was the home side that had the upper hand in the first few moments, with the Basingstoke forwards being a little too eager at the breakdown. This created the opportunity for Sandown & Shanklin to test the league leaders defence against the Hurricanes line out, and a successful catch and drive gained the home side valuable territory, but was held short of the try line. With the ball then spun wide to the backline, the visitor's defence strayed offside, and with the Hurricanes backs move halted, another penalty was awarded to the home side. The penalty was again kicked into the corner, and this time a secure maul caught by Sam Rees, was driven over the line and dotted down by Zak Chiverton. Tom Borrer added the conversion for an early 7 - 0 lead to the hosts.
From the restart, captain Sam Flux smartly reclaimed possession and allowed the Hurricanes to clear their lines and keep the opposition at bay. However, a few phases later, the home side were the ones under pressure, holding out the Basingstoke attack just outside of their 22. After a strong show of defence, and a couple of penalties, the visitors elected to kick a penalty to cut the arrears to 7 - 3.
This sparked another assault from the Sandown & Shanklin side, and some great inter play between Tyson and Mitchell soon found the Hurricanes back inside Basingstoke territory and threatening their 22. Another infringement from the visitors provided another opportunity for the Hurricanes to kick the ball to touch, and with another strong maul formed by the forwards, they again drove over the Basingstoke try line for Chiverton's second score of the game, and a 12 - 3 lead.
Again the away side fired back into life and were threatening the Sandown 22 this time, following some strong running from their forwards. The hosts held the line firm again, and several times managed to hold up the Basingstoke forwards over the try line to prevent them from scoring. Valiant defending from full back Ben Sanderson and Ben Shannon helping keep the away side at bay. With the pressure still coming from the visitors, they had the put in from a 5 metre scrum. Despite perhaps a slight advantage to Sandown & Shanklin in the set piece, the referee awarded a penalty to Basingstoke, with their number 8 taking the quick tap and driving his way over the line for the visitors first try, the conversion missed, the Hurricanes were still leading 12 - 8, but their rivals were very much in the ascendancy.
Cam Mitchell restarted the game, and the focus from the Hurricanes was to keep the Basingstoke side pinned back in their half and keep play away from the Sandown 22. Excellent tackling from flankers Harry Hopper and Henry Bagnall were keeping the visitors at bay, although only a handful of penalties were keeping the Basingstoke side in the Sandown half. Yet, this was enough for the away side, as they managed to score in the corner in the last few moments of the first half, and a tricky conversion missed, this meant that at the half time break the away side led 12 - 13.
Following the half time break, Basingstoke started the second half the brightest, and were testing the Sandown defence, trying to find a way through and extend their winning margin. Ten minutes into the half, with the physicality of the game starting to take its toll, Zak Chiverton was adjudged to lift his tackle through the horizontal and was sent to the sin bin for ten minutes. This period would turn out costly for the home side, as Basingstoke hammered at the Sandown defensive line. Yet, they could not hold out, when the opposition forwards finally barged their way over the Hurricanes try line. With the conversion, Basingstoke now had an eight-point cushion with over twenty minutes left to play. The momentum then swung in the favour of the Hurricanes, who were now looking to break down the Basingstoke defences. Clever play from Tyson set his centre partner Jack Wedderkop free to gain valuable metres for his side. Then several forward phases crept the Hurricanes up to the Basingstoke try line, and one final charge from the man of the match Ben Shannon saw him go over try line, but was held up by the visitor's defenders to prevent the try. The following scrum was held out by Basingstoke, and the Sandown forwards again set about trying to find a way through the opposition defensive line.
After a sustained period of battering the Basingstoke try line, and stretching the defence from one side to the next. Swift hands from the Hurricanes backline found Chiverton out wide for his hat-trick. This narrowed the score to 17-20 in the final moments of the game, yet try as they might, it was just a little too late for the home side to overcome the league leaders.
Director of Rugby Damien Marriott reflected his thoughts, post-game:
"It was disappointing to taste defeat, yet I could not fault the boys and their efforts today we gave everything for the badge, the club, and the supporters. The boys learned some really important lessons on what it is like playing against a great side, in fact, we probably learned more about ourselves today, than if we had won and we will take this into our remaining games for the season and keep the pressure on Basingstoke."
Despite the result, a fantastic game, which epitomises the excellent standard of rugby that both these sides have set this season.
The 1st XV now have a week off, before their next fixture, which is away to Millbrook RFC on Saturday 26th January. The 2nd XV will play on the 19th January, against Romsey RFC 2nd XV.