Alton Rugby Football Club

Careless Alton Squeeze Past Bottom Club

Sat 12 Dec 2009, 14:15


22 - 8

Aldershot & Fleet

Alton move four points clear at the top of Hampshire One after a last-minute try seals an unconvincing win over basement side Aldershot & Fleet.

First, the facts. Alton made it ten wins out of ten against win-less Aldershot and Fleet, and now hold a four-point lead over Petersfield going into Saturday's much-anticipated clash at Penns Place.

Now for the positives. Both sides had their performers: Alton had an alert, clever full-back in Sam Law, a nimble and tireless back row, and an excellent defence; A&F had resilience in spades, a clever playmaker in Chris Bird and an Alton old boy in Jonathan Green, whose workrate around the park was exemplary. And for most of the 80 minutes, A&F looked anything but a side that had lost all nine of their league games.

Now for some inconvenient truths. It was a scrappy, shapeless affair that was long on grunt but very short on quality. Alton were error-prone, sloppy and, at times, a little stroppy. For much of the game, they had the air of a side whose minds were elsewhere.

And even when they were in control, Alton were slapdash. Their progress was deeply undermined by a series of mostly unforced handling errors, a dangerously high penalty count and a tendency to overcomplicate.
And by the time the match entered its final ten minutes, Alton were clinging on for dear life with a 15-8 lead, and a only breakaway try in the final play of the game put victory to bed. It was an unexpected white-knuckle ride for the league-leaders.

Had A&F shown greater self-belief and precision, they could well have taken at least a point from this game - and not even the most one-eyed of the Anstey Park faithful could have begrudged them it.

A&F dominated the second half and hauled themselves right back into a game that appeared to have been snatched from them when they fell twelve points behind just before half-time.

It all began swimmingly for Alton as they took the lead with a fourth-minute pushover try, Chris Cox getting the final touchdown.

Chris Bird's seventh-minute drop goal put A&F on the scoreboard but Will Ford extended Alton's advantage shortly afterwards, and the home side appeared to be in the ascendancy.

The best move of the game came on 28 minutes when Law instigated a scintillating length-of-the-field counter-attack that saw flying Adam Gill tackled into touch a couple of yards short, but Alton's second try did eventually come just after the half-hour mark - and what a freak it was too.

Bird fumbled a pass deep in his 22 but managed to slip the ball to his inside centre, who miscued his attempted clearance so badly that the ball ricocheted off and between his own posts and into the dead-ball area, where flanker Winston Carter was on hand to touch down.

Ford's conversion gave Alton a 15-3 interval lead but with the slope and breeze in their favour, A&F began to play like a side that was anything but bottom of the league.

They camped in Alton's third and hardly ever left it, though they struggled to carve out much in the way of chances.

Had the A&F line-out functioned properly in the second half, they may have created more than they actually did. On four, five occasions A&F had attacking line-outs in the final third but Alton managed to steal the ball and stave off danger. Kudos to Carter and lock Bruce Oliphant for that.

Bird missed with penalty shots in the 47th and 57 minutes before the breakthrough finally came somewhat unexpectedly 12 minutes from the end.

Bird, who moved to scrum-half following Joe Barrett's injury, dinked a ball down the short side that Alton wing Matt O'Connor gathered, but A&F stand-off Martin Booth tackled him and stripped him of the ball before touching down.

It was a fine opportunist effort by Booth which gave A&F hope, and they continued to press hard in the dying stages.

Then with 80 minutes up, Alton flanker Chris Cox stole an A&F line-out and made a surging touchline gallop that took him to the A&F 22. Alton quickly recycled the ball and eventually hooker Luke Parratt popped up at outside centre to outgas the cover and score unopposed under the posts.

Ford's conversion added gloss to the scoreline and a little more insult to A&F's injury.

And so to the main event this Saturday: Petersfield v Alton at Penns Place  (kick-off 2.15) in the final league game of the year.

The Hampshire One title race is shaping up to be a two-horse race between the local rivals and, realistically, 'field must win Saturday's clash to keep in touch.

Alton: Law; O'Connor, Hemmens (Collins, 66) Forsyth, Gill; Alexander (King, 74 - 77), Pead; Happel, Parratt, Gay (c); Ford, Oliphant; Greenhalgh (Baker, 60), Carter, Cox.

Tries: Cox (4), Carter (33), Parratt (80);
Conversions: Ford (2);
Penalty: Ford.

Try: Booth;(68);
Drop goal: Bird (7).



Aldershot & Fleet:

Try: Booth;(68)

Drop goal: Bird (7).



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