Sandown & Shanklin's fourth appearance in a London South West 3 play-off fixture saw them welcome old rivals Weybridge Vandals to the Fairway ground for the highly anticipated fixture. The hosts buoyant after a strong season which saw them only lose on three occasions in the league, knew that the visitors would provide a stern test.
Kick-off preceded with a frenetic start to the game, as both sides looked to test each other out, but early nerves saw a few knock-ons from both teams. The Vandals were the first team to get on the scoreboard. Ferocious tackling from Carey and Mislebach was holding the Vandals at bay, but when they got on the front foot, they could play wider and get their backs involved in the game. Swit handling and a sweeping backs move, saw Weybridge score the first try. The conversion went wide, however, moments later the opposition added a penalty kick to lead, 0 - 8.
The Hurricanes got their first points on the board, when a penalty in the Vandals 22 saw the Flux elect to kick the penalty, and making the scoreline 3 - 8. Weybridge struck shortly after, however, when they got back on the ball and attacked the Sandown back line. Winger Owen Williams was unfortunately sin-binned, after trying to intercept a pass, he was deemed to knock the ball down. With the man advantage, Vandals exploited the space where the winger was missing and scored, increasing their lead to, 3 - 15, with a successful conversion.
Following the restart, excellent work by young Damian Seder so the Hurricanes reclaim possession, and were then able to attack the Weybridge defence in their 22. Very strong carrying from tighthead prop Chris Skelley, and flanker Ryan Carey, brought the home side just short of the Vandals five metre line. A few more phases later and man of the match, Matt Miselbach, powered over from short range to bring the home side back into the game. The conversion was wide from Flux, but at the half time break, Weybridge were ahead, 8 - 15.
The second half was resume with the Hurricanes kicking off, and with the score against them, the Vandals took the initiative to score first in the last 40 minutes. After a period of pressure in the Sandown 22, the host's valiant defence was repelling the visitor's attacks. After a number of phases, the away side had accrued a penalty, which they kicked to the corner for a line-out. The following maul was held out, great work by Sam Rees and Ryan Carey, preventing the drive over the line. As the ball was recycled, another carry was held up short just under the posts. An unnoticed boot through the ruck, popped the ball up to an oncoming Vandals player, who gratefully collected the ball and dotted down under the posts, 8 - 22. With the momentum swinging in favour of the away side, the Hurricanes were desperate to find a way back into game.
With legs beginning to tire, the home side brought on replacements up front, with Luke Hunter taking Adam Tyas's spot, with Captain Sam Flux moving up into the front row. As well, Harrison Booth took young Damian Seder's place.
The opposition set about trying to increase their advantage and made their way into the Sandown half. Replacement Booth making his presence felt immediately, with a turnover at the breakdown, allowing the Hurricanes to clear their lines. By this point, the Hurricanes line out was under heavy pressure from the organised Vandals pack, and despite a few strong and well-set mauls, they could not get the momentum they dearly craved. Another penalty, this time in the Weybridge half, allowed Flux to get Sandown's first points of the second half, and cut their deficit down to, 11 - 22, with over twenty minutes remaining.
This was what the hosts needed to get going again, and with another swing in the momentum, the Hurricanes were soon pressuring the Weybridge defence. Fly-half Cameron Mitchell finding holes in the opposition defence, got his forwards on the front foot and carrying hard, with Flux and Hunter denting the Vandals line. As a result, the opposition lost another man to the bin, after repeat penalties at the breakdown. This created more space for centres Tyson and Wedderkop, and as they had been doing all season, they were starting to cause havoc ball in hand for the defence. The hosts worked their way into the Vandals 22, and with the defence in retreat the ball was spun wide to Wedderkop, who then barged through two tackles, to dot down. Flux added the extras to close the gap even more to 18 - 22, with less than seven minutes remaining.
From the restart, Sandown worked their way into the Vandals half, this time carrying from Chiverton and Booth at the forefront. More penalties to the Hurricanes allowed them to get into the Vandals 22, with a line-out to the home side. The following set piece didn't quite go to plan, but the home side still had possession of the ball. With time evaporating, one last penalty was awarded to the home side, and with one last attack to score the try that would secure the win, Flux tapped the penalty and drove at the try line. A few phases later, the ball was unfortunately knocked on by Sandown, and with that their promotion hopes were gone, and pure elation for the visiting Vandals.
Post match, both teams reflected on the epic battle between each other and the Hurricanes wished the Vandals all the best for the next season in South West 3. As a result the Hurricanes will look to progress further next season, by targetting to win the league, after finishing 2nd this time around. A big thank you to all of the supporters that have cheered on the boys, both at home and on some of their long trips away, in both the league and the cups. Another mention must go to the volunteers that have helped maintain the pitches and the clubhouse through the season, as well as help provide the first class facilities that the Club has access too.
The end of season Dinner & Dance will be taking place on Saturday 27th April, tickets are still available for anyone wishing to come along to an excellent evening, and to celebrate the great season the Club has had.