IRONSIDE LAY DOWN GAUNTLET TO LEAGUE LEADERSAll sense of seasonal good will was put aside by the Ironsides 1st XV as they kicked off 2019 at home to Winchester, a team who remain hotly-tipped to bounce back up to London SW2 after their recent relegation. Playing host to a physically-imposing unit, the team came out with a particular gameplan, aiming to dominate in the tackle and remaining composed until the final whistle; the buoyant home support were expecting a performance and the team came ready to deliver.
Ironsides started the stronger of the two, with Winchester barely off the coach before the onslaught began. Some ferocious defence from the Ironsides pack put the visitors on the backfoot and a pair of high tackles from the visitors gave Charlie Stuart an easy three points in front of the posts. Eager to show what had put them 7 points clear at the top of the table, Winchester took their turn with ball in hand, making the most of a size mismatch in the backs with their hooker crashing down out wide. An eager chase-down from Ben Lyons kept the score at 3-5, but Winchester’s use of forward pods paid dividends once again, putting the league-leaders 3-10 up after only 20 minutes. This did, however, prove to be as big a margin that the visitors would be allowed all afternoon.
Urged on by the vociferous home crowd, and buoyed by a well-timed strip tackle from Sam Reeves, a clearance to the halfway line proved to be the turning point of the first half. Superbly stolen, the Ironsides’ lineout gave a hint of its impending dominance, setting up a mazy run from Lyons in the centres and a cool finish from Sean McIntyre under the posts. More calm and collected kicking from Stuart drew the scores level, and the home team were eager to add more. With an effective defence stopping the visitors forward pods in their tracks, Battersea started to squeeze the opposition at every opportunity. Strong work at the ruck and an increasingly-wobbly visiting lineout had both Seb Trower and Ed Prentice bulldozing their way through the middle of the park for a 2nd try, before Ben Turner crossed the line in the corner for a 3rd, and a 22-10 lead at the half.
The 2nd half proved to be a more physical affair for Ironsides, with a Rich Crowley-led defence consistently soaking up Winchester’s attacks and unleashing counter-rucking to devastating effect. Commendations must be given to the entire lineout unit (as well a rather vocal Scot on the sideline), as opportunity after opportunity was stolen away from Winchester. Despite enjoying the lion’s share of both the territory and possession, it was only a breakaway try from the visitors that brought them back into contention, pulling Ironsides to within touching distance at 22-17, with a key scrum barely 7 metres out giving Winchester the chance to wrestle back the lead. This was, however, DSP and the home team had other ideas. Holding off a scrum that likely had at least a stone a man weight advantage, the Ironsides backs quickly turned defence into offence, giving Stuart a chance to effectively put the two scores-worth of breathing distance between the two teams. Despite spending the final 5 minutes in the home 22, the visitors were unable to effectively break through the resolute green wall and were forced to accept just a bonus losing point for their day’s endeavours, using the final kick of the game to wrap it up at 25-20.
After the game, a very proud Director of Rugby, Alex Hadley, had some words to share from the performance, noting that "the Green Wall is a key component to our game plan and we spoke about being physical and aggressive in the tackle. The lads really stepped up despite conceding a couple of early tries. Shane and I are immensely proud of the squads performance.
There is much still to do but we are looking forward to Petersfield away followed by Portsmouth on the road in the cup. Please keep up the great support on the touch line it really helps spur the boys on!"
For the remaining fixtures for all Men's Seniors teams, please see the website for details.
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