Alton and Wellies Share Spoils in Final-Day Thriller
Sat 14 Apr 2012, 15:00
22 - 22
Alton call time on their London 3 season with a battling draw with Old Wellingtonians in a terrific contest at Anstey Park.
A superb match. Alton and Old Wellingtonians battered each other into a stalemate in a thunderous, thrilling encounter at Anstey Park as the London 3 season reached its climax.
Wellingtonians came desperately close to claiming a victory in the dying moments that would have seen them promoted to London 2 but they were thwarted by a magnificently resilient Alton side, more than half of whom were 21 or younger.
In the final analysis a draw was a fair result, although Alton were clinging on for dear life at the end as Wellingtonians produced some sumptuous running rugby in the final ten minutes and so nearly nicked it.
Relegation was confirmed weeks ago but there was a youthful confidence about this Alton side and a wider repertoire that should serve them well if they can take reproduce it in Hampshire One.
They probed patiently, played it short and simple as needed, but were clever, breezy and incisive in broken-field situations - no longer the urgency to score off first-phase ball or throw the impossible off-load.
Wellingtonians were crushing 49-5 winners on the opening day of the season but here Alton showed well against a talented side who were, as always, comfortable on the ball and occasionally produced some delightful, off-the-cuff offensive plays.
Old Wellingtonians is a genuine old-boys' club with an old-school, turn-up-and-play, Barbarian attitude to the game, so they are likely to be unfazed by missing out on promotion. And they more than played their part in producing an entertaining final-day hurrah in front of a decent-sized crowd.
Alton number eight Shane Watts and Wellingtonians' centre Elliott Freer had fabulous games in their contrasting ways.
Watts ran tirelessly and blasted through tackles merrily while Freer cruised past defenders and was full of clever off-loads and intelligent running-lines. They were stand-outs in a group of players who, collectively, ran themselves to a standstill and relished every contact.
It was Alton who claimed first blood, full-back Christo Arundel banging over a penalty after just 60 seconds, a lead that was improved when a storming break from Nick Ovens set up field position inside the Wellingtonians' 22 and Sam Rees' clever little dink was gathered and grounded over the line by Arundel.
Arundel also slotted a superb touchline conversion for a 10-0 lead at the tone was set for a contest of terrific ebb and flow. But with Alton coughing up a ton of ball at the tackle area and creaking at the scrummage, it was only a matter of time before the old boys started to create openings.
And they did when the visitors won turnover ball on halfway and prop Sean Starling galloped through the heart of the Alton midfield before pointing full-back Alex Barker to the line.
Barker nailed the conversion and a further penalty to even it up and it was the visitors who struck again when a slick exchange of passes down the left freed Freer and he teed up wing James Dennis, who jinked and stepped over for a fine try.
But Alton were back on level terms shortly after the break when they sent the ball wide following a lengthy series of forward thrusts inside the Wellingtonians' 22, Tim Salmon finishing neatly in the corner.
Salmon had a fine game, with plenty of pace and devil matched by some superb covering work in defence. He will no doubt have enjoyed his try - his dad, Jamie, is Old Wellingtonians' current president, after all.
And Alton regained the lead just after the hour the ball squirted out of an attacking five-metre scrum, the ever-alert Watts gathered, put his head down and bludgeoned his way through a couple of tacklers.
Wellingtonians' counterpunch was immediate and it was that man Freer who conjured the equalising score when his arcing break skinned Alton's wide defence and created an overlap for Dennis to score his second try - Barker's conversion squaring it.
And Freer nearly nicked it for Wellingtonians at the death, a thrilling 60-yard burst stopped a couple of yards short by Ovens's magnificent last-ditch tackle.
Even so, Wellingtonians might have won it in the final play of the game when they seemed to ground the ball under the Alton posts. Not so, according to unsighted referee Richard James, and Alton somehow bundled the ball into touch. Game over, season over. Farewell, then, London 3.
Report to follow.
Scoring: 3-0 Arundel penalty (1 min); 10-0 Arundel try and conversion (9 mins); 10-7 Barker try and conversion (14 mins: 10-10 Barker penalty (26 mins); 10-15 Dennis try (35 mins); 15-15 Salmon try (51 mins); 22-15 Watts try, Salmon conversion (64 mins); 22-22 Dennis try, Barker con (66 mins).
Refereee: Richard James (Hampshire Society).