Alton Rugby Football Club

Alton Defy Traffic to Make it Eight from Eight

Sat 28 Nov 2009, 14:30

US Portsmouth

16 - 33



Alton regain the leadership of Hampshire One after Petersfield's shock loss at Southampton.

Match photos :

Alton have regained the leadership of Hampshire One after seeing off United Services and extending their unbeaten league run to eight matches.

Petersfield's shock defeat at Southampton means that Jimmy Gay's side now hold a two-point lead at the top with a game in hand. The 19 December meeting between the top two is now assuming massive proportions for both clubs.  

Saturday's game at HMS Temeraire may have been scrappy and fractious, and 31 penalties indicate it was, but both sides gave more than passable impressions of being decent rugby teams.

Alton won with something to spare, courtesy of an opening 45 minutes in which they were too sharp, too quick and too efficient for their hosts. But having established an unassailable 27-11 lead early into the second period, they appeared to slip into the comfort zone.

Their forwards were quite magnificent all day, though: ruthlessly efficient in the set-piece and breakdown, patient in the rolling maul, and unforgiving in defence. Such was their edge, they even helped themselves to half-a-dozen United Services line-outs and three of their scrums.  

Outside the boiler-room, stand-off Dan Forsyth and inside centre Gareth Richards were key orchestrators: Forsyth’s quick feet earned him three clean breaks and his distribution and kicking were first-class, while Richards was a defensive rock and all-round midfield guv’nor. It was a solidly competent all-round performance.

United Services' set-pieces may have been a mess but they at least achieved parity at the breakdown and a much-improved second-half performance saw them peg Alton and break the visitors’ line on more than one occasion.

But while the result was as most predicted, Alton's path to victory was less than straightforward.

Heavy traffic into the city meant that Alton's players arrived so late that referee Mike Gill agreed to delay the kick-off by ten minutes. Consequently, Alton's warm-up was hurried and cursory, while Forsyth just about made it onto the pitch in time for the start. And after three weeks without a game, Alton were sure to be vulnerable in the opening exchanges.

Not a bit of it. Luke Parratt took the first two United Services scrums against the head and within five minutes Taryke van Rensberg had taken Forsyth's pass and strolled over unopposed, following a rolling maul and a couple of pick-and-gos. Giant lock Will Ford, entrusted with the kicking tee, converted for a 7-0 lead. Who needed a warm-up?

However, Alton made a right old hash of the restart, conceded a penalty in the process, and Andrew Arter slotted a tricky 30-yarder to trim the visitors' lead.

Arter missed narrowly with a second shot on the quarter-hour, but the force was with Alton, Hugh Flanagan having a fair pushover try rightly ruled out by the unsighted Gill and Ford being held up short.

Arter and Ford exchanged penalties but Alton predictably extended their lead five minutes before the interval when Gay crashed over from another rolling maul.  

United Services hit back immediately when scrum-half Matt Davis' astute box-kick from a slow ruck found no one at home inside Alton's 22, and centre Max Boyce gratefully followed up to gather and sprint over in the corner.

But deep into first-half injury, Alton scored their third try when they shunted United Services back at an attacking five-metre scrum, and scrum-half Matt Pead claimed the touchdown.

Ford converted for a 22-11 interval lead - a lead that was extended four minutes into the second half with the try of the game that was engineered by Forsyth.

Alton won quick ruck ball after flanker Chris Cox’s surging midfield break  and Forsyth then gathered his own chip ahead before breaking into the 22 and offloading to Winston Carter. Carter’s tireless 38-year-old legs had too much gas for the covering defence and he scampered over.

Ford missed with the conversion but added his second penalty to take Alton to 30 points, but the servicemen rallied, began to win some set-piece ball and strung together some meaningful phases.

A powerful touchline run from full-back Martin Hoskins was stopped only by a wonderful covering tackle from van Rensburg and Arter’s slippery break ended in frustration for the fly-half when his attempted scoring pass squirted forward.

Eventually United Services' industry was rewarded when Hoskins and Boyce combined to send wing Stephen Gee over in the left-hand corner.

Alton still enjoyed the last say when Ford slotted an injury-time penalty to take his personal tally to 13 points and complete a fine day for him and his side.

United Services: Hoskins; Rayner, Boyce, Vuniwaqa, Gee; Arter, Davis; Cole, Guyll, Powell; Bell, K. Blackett; Phillips, W. Blackett (c), Porter.

Tries: Boyce (36), Gee (72);
Penalties: Arter (7, 32).

Alton: Law; Spencer, van Rensburg, Richards, O'Connor; Forsyth (McEvoy, 64), Pead; Fleming (Happel, 26), Parratt, Gay (c); Oliphant, Ford; Cox, Carter, Flanagan (Greenhalgh, 58).

Tries: van Rensburg (5), Gay (35), Pead (40), Carter (45);
Conversions: Ford (2);
Penalties: Ford (25, 63, 80).

H-T: 11-22.



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