Alton Rugby Football Club

Alton Move to Within a Point of Title

Sat 20 Mar 2010, 15:00


24 - 3



Alton are just a point away from the Hampshire One title after defying appalling conditions to defeat Romsey at Anstey Park.

One point. One measly point - that is all that separates Alton from their first piece of league silverware since 1997.

The champions-elect duly saw off a willing but outgunned Romsey at a sodden, blustery Anstey Park to secure a victory that all but secures the Hampshire One title.

But the champagne will have to stay on ice for at least another week after nearest rivals Petersfield kept their faint title hopes alive with a 19-6 win at Millbrook.

Alton play the bottom two in their final round of matches and need just a draw from either game to clinch their first league honours since they lifted the London 3 title 13 years ago.

And with the 2nd XV confirmed as Merit 2 champions after victory at Romsey, Alton can look forward to the mother of end-of-season parties.

Bold and brutal in equal measure, the league-leaders overcame a slow start to run in four tries and notch their eighth straight league win, their 17th in 18 games.

Victory was as comprehensive as it sounds but it was never straightforward.

The conditions - a vile combination of biting wind and spray-like rain - made meant that it was not a day for running rugby.

Except someone forgot to tell Alton. From the off, they were ambitious and full of zip yet, perversely, only turned to their wet weather game in the second half, when the game was won.

The execution was not always there, with wayward passes and spilled balls aplenty, but Alton's cavalier approach was symptomatic of their current mood. Confidence and self-belief have replaced the fear and uncertainty that dogged Alton's performances earlier in the year.

Ultimately, victory was founded on a performance of blood-curdling ferocity from the forwards; it was a dynamic and hugely physical display that subdued and eventually overwhelmed Romsey after the visitors had started brightly.

Pick of a highly impressive bunch was blindside Steve Sorby, who put in a performance of controlled brutality around the fringes of the scrums and breakdowns, repeatedly knocking back Romsey forwards with whiplash tackles that often registered on the Richter Scale.

Will Ford helped himself to a brace of tries and 14 points in all but overall there were no weak links, no quarter given, not a yard conceded. Defensively, Alton were at their very, very best.

Alton started at 100mph but for all their early dominance it was the visitors who took an early lead through Matt Roach's ninth-minute penalty. But Alton hit back eleven minutes later with a a try out of the top drawer, Dan Forsyth running a dreamy line from full back to slice through the Romsey centres, before slipping an inside pass to Winston Carter.

Alton extended their lead seven minutes before half-time when they won a scrum against the head on the Romsey line and Ford slid over from close range.

And Ford added his second try three minutes after the interval when he plunged over from the back of a ruck - his touchline conversion giving Alton an unassailable 17-3.

Even with the wind at their backs in the first half Romsey had few opportunities to attack, though full-back Adam Knibb did waste a half-chance shortly before half-time when he spurned a three-on-one by passing inside.

The fleet-footed Knibb and inside centre Graeme Lusty were the visitors' two best players - the ever-willing Lusty tackled himself to a standstill.

The loss of Carter to a gashed head shortly after half-time failed to trouble Alton's forward dominance and they completed the scoring when Matt Pead touched after shunting Romsey back at an attacking five-metre scrum.

And that, as far as scoring was concerned, was that. With the pitch cutting up badly and players tiring, the game deteriorated into something of a muddy mess, but Alton had done enough to ensure that just a point at relegated Aldershot and Fleet this Saturday (kick-off 3pm) will be enough for promotion.

Alton: Forsyth (van Rensburg, 40); O'Connor, Hemmens, Good, Law; Alexander, Pead; Happel, Parratt, Gay (c); Greenhalgh (Oliphant, 65), Osborne; Sorby, Carter (White, 47), Ford.

Tries: Carter (20), Ford (33, 43), Pead (65).
Conversions: Ford (2).

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