Alton Rugby Football Club

Confident Alton Edge Closer to Title Glory

Sat 06 Mar 2010, 14:30


39 - 5

US Portsmouth


And Petersfield's shock home defeat hands Alton a four-point cushion with just three games remaining.

Match photos can be found here

Finally, there is daylight between the top two. Petersfield's shock home defeat to Southampton means that Alton have a four-point lead over their north Hampshire neighbours with just three games remaining. After a staring match that has seemingly lasted all season, someone has finally blinked.

Alton were too strong, too fast and too organised for lowly United Services and now just need three points to guarantee the Hampshire One title; and to judge from Saturday's showing, they are beginning to assume the air of champions.

The twitchy, timid Alton of just three weeks ago was no more. Instead, we saw a side chock-full of attacking intent, relentless physicality and just a little cockiness. They have hit a bit of form at just the right time.

Alton's forwards delivered a performance of blazing power and were, to a man, superb, with the back-row trio of Chris Cox, Will Ford and Winston Carter irrepressible. Scrum-half Matt Pead helped himself to a hat-trick of tries on the back of the forwards' efforts at the scrummage, while the backs rampaged merrily outside them.

It wasn't perfect by any means. The decision-making was occasionally faulty and at least two tries were fluffed by elementary handling errors. There were still too many dropped passes and the performance in the final quarter faded badly. But for an hour Alton played like a side that backed itself.

For their part, United Services were better than their league position suggests but they were simply taken apart at the scrummage and were never able to secure a decent platform from which to attack their hosts. They badly missed injured skipper Will Blackett and their contingent of rugby league players, who were on duty for the Navy.

The servicemen had their moments. Full-back Martin Hoskins scored a brilliant solo try at the end of the match, scrum-half Matt Davis improvised manfully behind a retreating scrum, and centre Andrew Arter made some useful darts in midfield. However, Alton barely gave United Services a millisecond on the ball; they simply stifled them.

On a day when Anstey Park was bathed in sunshine, Alton looked to play sunshine rugby from the off. Even the pitch - a mud-bath a week ago - was bursting with life, thanks to a supreme effort by ground-staff to revive it.

Straight from the kick-off they ran the ball back at United Services and only Hoskins' brutal covering tackle prevented Adam Gill from scoring inside 30 seconds.

However, the Alton faithful did not have to wait too much longer. With five minutes on the clock, a laboured backs move by the visitors was ended when centre Ed Good intercepted and cantered over from halfway for the game's opening try.

Yet for all their possession and attacking intent, Alton struggled to break down United Services' defence in the opening half-hour. Unforced handling errors and a tendency for players to become isolated at the breakdown undermined their progress, allowing the visitors to edge their way into contention.

But Arter missed with a couple of penalty shots and Alton duly took advantage in the 28th minute when Matt O'Connor came off his wing, drew both centres before slipping a nifty off-load to Richard Hemmens for a well-worked try by the posts.

Sam Law slotted both conversions for a 14-0 lead which was extended further when Pead touched down from a drive from a five-metre scrum.

With United Services' scrummage in disarray, Pead helped himself to further tries early in the second half. They were almost carbon copies of one another: on both occasions, United Services failed to control the ball at the back of the scrum and Pead was on hand to hack through and score.

Will Ford added a 64th minute score to his collection, strolling over on the short side from Pead's pass, and his conversion from wide out was so good he was substituted.

With the flurry of substitutions and the game won, Alton rather lost their shape in the final quarter-hour and United Services' industry was finally rewarded with Hoskins' splendid solo effort.

The full-back gathered a charged-down kick on halfway, stepped away from a couple of tackles and escaped down the right flank, showing terrific pace to outstrip the cover and score in the corner.

Alton take a break from league action this Saturday. Romsey's visit to Anstey Park on 20 March is followed by a trip to bottom club Aldershot and Fleet a week later.

Alton: Law (Forsyth, 54); O'Connor, Hemmens, Good, Gill; Richards, Pead; Happel, Parratt, Gay (c); Greenhalgh, Osborne; Cox (White, 65), Carter, Ford (Oliphant, 65)

Tries: Good (5), Hemmens (28), Pead (33, 49, 59), Ford (64);
Conversions: Law (2), Ford;
Penalty: Ford (43).

United Services:
Try: Hoskins (80).

Referee: Chris Garnett.

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