Alton Rugby Football Club

Good Strike Keeps Alton on Top

Sat 30 Jan 2010, 14:15


5 - 11


Ed Good's second-half solo try sets up a crucial victory at Test Park to keep Alton two points clear at the top of Hampshire One.

Alton are within sight of at least a promotion play-off slot after recovering from a dozy start to beat Southampton and maintain their wafer-thin lead at the top of Hampshire One.

It was close, tense, riddled with mistakes and as beautifully ugly as rugby should be, but this was another banana-skin avoided by the league-leaders.

Once again Alton were forced to rely on a combination of bloodymindedness and defensive excellence to win, not to mention a pack that refused to buckle after a torrid opening quarter. Alton are winning games because they simply refuse to lose.

Saints were greatly improved since their visit to Anstey Park in October and are never easily beaten at their Test Park home. They have an experienced, intimidating and well-drilled pack and a first-class line-out, but their half-back pairing of Tom Morton and Paul Brant has given them an extra edge.

Morton's probing kicks and astute distribution troubled the visitors while the busy, elusive Brant was simply outstanding at scrum-half.

But their back-line struggled to penetrate Alton's rush-defence tackling and had the visitors converted just one of their line-breaks, it may have been a different story.

For Alton, their forwards turned in a much improved display that recalled the swagger of their early-season matches.

Skipper Jimmy Gay led from the front, covering more ground than seemed feasible, while ageless flanker Winston Carter was back to his exuberant, relentlessly disruptive best.

Meanwhile, out in the open spaces, Lei Alexander once again kicked beautifully from stand-off, but it was Ed Good's performance at inside centre that stood stood out.

Aggressive in defence, clever and incisive going forward, it was Good's 49th-minute solo try that ultimately turned the game Alton's way.

In hindsight, the turning point in the match probably came eight minutes earlier when Saints had an attacking scrum inside Alton's 22 but found themselves shunted back five metres and robbed of the ball.

That was a huge psychological breakthrough for Alton, who then proceeded to take the next three Saints scrums against the head. Suddenly, the Saints forwards seemed not to be the force they were earlier in the game.

Thereafter the second half belonged to Alton and they really should have had the game washed, starched and ironed by the hour mark. However, as is so often the case, they were their own worst enemies.

A spilled pass had given Saints their 13th-minute try and nearly led to two others, while a tendency to take the flashier option undermined their progress in attack.

Sometimes it is better to take the ball into contact rather than attempt a 20-yard cut-out pass; sometimes it is wiser to belt the ball into touch rather than launch a counter-attack from inside your own 22.

Saints opened the scoring when Alton fluffed a regulation switch in midfield, Morton gratefully seizing the ball and trundling in unopposed from 40 metres.

Morton missed with his conversion and earlier penalty shot as Saints dominated the early exchanges against a noticeably subdued Alton.

But Alton began to rise from their slumbers, Will Ford trimming the lead with a 19th-minute penalty after Saints' flanker Allan Long was caught offside at a ruck. Four minutes later Ford slotted his second penalty after the Saints' backline encroached at another ruck.

The decisive moment came nine minutes into the second period, with Good's try. Little appeared to be on when Good took Alexander's pass from slow ruck ball, but when he stepped inside he found himself in space with only two front-row forwards in front of him. It was no contest -  he jinked past them and held off Brant's covering tackle to score by the posts.

However, Ford's straightforward conversion miss left Alton with a slender six-point lead, which was never going to be quite enough for comfort.

Alton continued to press, their backs regularly creating space on the flanks for wing Matt O'Connor and Sam Law to run into and while the openings were created, a lack of composure and some dogged Saints defending denied them.

To make matters worse for an increasingly jittery Alton, they nearly repeated their largesse of the first half: O'Connor's scything tackle denied Saints full-back Julian Robins after he gathered a stray pass, and Good's covering tackle grounded centre James Dodds 15 yards short after he had latched onto another Alton fumble.

But Alton held out to secure two vital league points that keep them top of the Hampshire One tree. They take a break from league action this Saturday but take on Hampshire 2 side Kingsclere on Sunday (2.30pm kick-off) in the Gales Hampshire Bowl.

Alton: Johns; O'Connor, Forsyth, Good (Collins, 74), Law; Alexander, Pead; Happel, Parratt, Gay (c); Ford, Oliphant; Lee (Cox, 64), Carter, Flanagan.

Try: Good (49);
Penalties: Ford (19, 23).

Southampton: Robins; Pitt, Ward (c), Dodds (Martin, 78), Scott; Morton, Brant;  Coffin, Holland, Simmons; Budd, Mauger; Long, Hoque, Cador.

Try: Morton (13).

Referee: Peter Westley (Hampshire Referees).

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