Our 1st XV travelled to the Isle of Wight for their first league match since being promoted to the Hampshire Premiership. Sandown & Shanklin started strongly and scored a well worked try after just 5 minutes. We competed well in the forwards after the re-start and they started to generate some quick ball. But we struggled to move the ball fast enough to the wide channels to use our pace and Sandown were able to force turnovers from either one-up runners or from errors made under pressure. Sandown know the angles and the slopes on their ground very well and were able to pin us back from penalty kicks. They utilised the catch and drive well in the first half and a few more converted tries came as our team’s defence became narrow and Sandown’s organised structure picked us off. The only consolation, points wise, in the first half was a single penalty kick by Matt Painter. But there were other positives to take forward. Our scrum was solid and secure. The game was more balanced than the half time 35-3 score suggested and when we tackled low on the gain line turnovers were being won.
The second half was a more even affair and we were able to put Sandown under more pressure. Our forwards did an excellent job in neutralising Sandown’s mauling game and the backs played with increasing confidence and physicality. We finally got our reward late in the game with a daring break out of our 22. The ball was transferred well through the hands to the wing and Johnny Joiner was able to outflank the Sandown defence and run the ball in under the home teams post, with captain Henry Benson adding the conversion to make the final score 52-10.
The team improved throughout the game and learned a lot. There are still things to work on but this was an encouraging start to this seasons campaign.