Sandown & Shanklin kicked off the new 2019/20 season in Hampshire Premier, welcoming newly-promoted Ellingham & Ringwood to the Fairway.

Report contributed

The Hurricanes started brightly, and looked to attack from the off.

Following a sweeping move down the pitch, an attacking playback across the pitch created an overlap and allowed the hosts forwards to charge into the E&R 22.

Held up short, the ball was recycled to Josh Wetherick who finished well to score, and converted his own try, to provide the Hurricanes with an early, 7-0 lead. A missed penalty kick at the Hurricanes posts, following an indiscretion at the breakdown, was a let off.

However, the home side fired back, and following a strong maul from S&S they were soon back in the visitors 22. With the maul stopped illegally, the ball was spun wide, and soon made it’s way to debutante Rob Newton Jnr, who managed to score on his 1st XV debut. Wetherick duly converted, and doubled the hosts lead, 14-0.

Despite the ascendancy, E&R still put up a strong fight, and following a period of sustained pressure on the S&S 22, were awarded a penalty, which their captain kicked for their first points of the game, 14-3.

The hosts fired back with two further scores to extend their lead. The first from the man of the match, Owen Williams, who performed well in his new position at fly-half. He completed a move by the Hurricanes backs, following some strong carrying from young prop Ben Shannon and Number 8 Matt Miselbach. The fourth try came following another strong line-out, catch and drive, which was again halted short of the try line. A few phases later, the ball was passed out to Darren Carew on the charge, who couldn’t be stopped so close to the line. Both tries accurately converted by Wetherick, 28-3.

With the scoreline looking slightly one-sided the visitors still played their part in a tough game, but could not find a way through the strong Sandown defence. The Hurricanes then completed the half with another Owen Williams try, but an uncustomary miss from the reliable Wetherick, sending the teams into the break, 33-3.

At the half time break, taking a leaf out of the Manchester United team of 1996, and swapped shirts, so that the referee could help distinguish between the two teams (both playing in navy).

The Hurricanes picked up momentum from the first half, and after another period of carrying from the forwards, managed to create an overlap, for debuting winger Alipate Ulunisau to streak down the wing. ‘Pate’ was more or less certain to score, however, the brave E&R fullback managed to stop the winger, but the referee deemed it illegal after diving at ‘Pate’s’ legs and not attempting to use any arms in the tackle. This resulted in the fullback being sin-binned and the penalty try awarded, 40-3.

What followed was also a period of ill-discipline from the Hurricanes, as the away side rallied and looked to get something from the game, their pressure inside the Hurricanes 22 increased, and following an incident at the breakdown, Shannon was sent to the sin-bin. Moments later, prop Darren Carew was also sent to the sin-bin following an attempted tackle which ended up too high on the E&R winger.

Yet, despite being a man down, the Hurricanes managed to press the visitor’s defence and keep the play in their half. Then when both sides had each brought a man back on to the field, the hosts scored again, this time managing to pick off the numbers and allowing hooker Zak Chiverton the space to dart in under the posts. Wetherick converted, to push the advantage to 47-3.

With a quarter of the game remaining, Sandown & Shanklin brought on to further debutantes in Sam Dawson and James Pemberton, who immediately helped increase the physicality of the Hurricanes carrying. As the Hurricanes looked to attack again, they again created space out wide, and this time ‘Pate’ had the freedom to dot down out wide. Wetherick slid the conversion wide, but the score was increased to 52-3.

The game didn’t end in the best manner for the home side, as their defence lapsed and allowed E&R to break from their own 22 and go the length of the field to score under the sticks. The try converted, the final score was 52-10 to the hosts.

Director of Rugby, Damien Marriott reflected post-game on his side’s victory:

“Great to start to the season with a win. Thrilled with the first half performance attack and defence was really strong looks promising for the season ahead. It’s really important we just keep building and it is really exciting from here on in.. big shout out to the new boys who really stepped up, I thought young Rob Newton Jnr was excellent, and took his first 1st team try really well. Our flying Fijian ‘Pate’ was a force to be reckoned with, he’s going to scare lots of defence with his pace and power.

“It is really exciting times to be involved with Hurricanes at the moment! I also want to add a big thank you to Josh Wetherick, who retired last week, but we managed to get one more game out of this week, and Josh played superbly. A great servant to the club over the years, and we wish him all the best hanging up his boots and cheering from the sidelines from now on!”

With the 1st XV receiving a bye next week, all focus will be on the 2nd XV who return to action, by hosting Eastleigh RFC 3rd XV to the Fairway.

A brilliant fixture from last year’s campaign, this contest will be one to watch. Kick-off will be at 3.00pm, so come down and support the boys.