Alton Rugby Football Club

Last-Gasp Try Earns Derby Spoils for Alton

Sat 19 Sep 2009, 15:00


32 - 28


Last-Gasp Try Earns Derby Spoils for Alton

Matt O'Connor's late late try clinches victory for Alton after an epic battle between the fierce local rivals.

Alton v Petersfield matches are rather like FA Cup finals - feverishly anticipated but usually disappointing. But Saturday's league encounter was proof that every rule has its exception as the local rivals produced one of the most relentlessly exciting league games Anstey Park has seen in many a year.

This was an absolute firecracker of a game that was only settled when wing Matt O'Connor scored a try just 90 seconds from the end to give Alton a win they fully deserved yet seemed incapable of closing out.

Alton's forwards were outstanding. Yet for all their second-half possession and territory, not to mention the amount of turnover and line-out ball they stole from 'field, Alton should have won at a canter. That they didn't was due to 'field's astonishing resilience and their uncanny knack of fashioning points from nowhere.

'field showed attacking intent and enterprise throughout and always threatened, especially when their highly creative midfield duo Andy Barnes and James Flett found themselves in possession in broken play - but those occasions were few and far between.

When all is said and done, both sides should be eyeing a top-three finish, maybe better. While the quality of both teams' kicking from hand was often lacking, the skill levels elsewhere were high - there was some real quality on show at a balmy, sun-drenched Anstey Park on Saturday.

The portents certainly weren't good for the visitors in the early exchanges. Where Alton began strongly and efficiently, 'field were fumbling and hesitant.

Kieran Collins opened the scoring with a third-minute penalty and four minutes later Alton scored the opening try when Lei Alexander's clever cross-kick caused mayhem in 'field's defensive ranks and Sam Law clutched the bouncing ball to touch down in the corner.

Collins' pinpoint touchline conversion gave Alton a 10-0 lead, but 'field found their stride, began to secure ball and made some headway as the half progressed.

After both Collins and Barnes missed kickable penalties, the latter then found his range to trim Alton's lead to just four points, and seven minutes before the break 'field took the lead with a peach of a try.

Stand-off James Flett took line-out ball 40 yards out, dummy-switched with Barnes before making a searing outside break that ended with wing George Saunders ambling over in the right-hand corner.

But Alton had their noses in front again on the stroke of half-time, Adam Baker stretching over from a rolling maul and Collins converting for a 17-11 lead.

With Alton's forwards beginning to get a nudge on at the scrum and disrupting 'field's ball at every turn, there seemed only one likely winner.

Yet back came 'field immediately after half-time, Barnes slotting his third penalty and then scoring and converting his side's second try when he galloped over from 20 yards, following Flett's shimmying half-break and adept off-load.

However, Alton's forwards once again took the upper hand and launched wave after wave of attack for the next 20 minutes.

Skipper James Gay had a seemingly good try ruled out, but he finally found his reward in the 63rd minute, plunging over close range after a quick penalty from Matt Pead had caught 'field off-guard.

Pead's introduction as replacement scrum-half on the hour mark was something of a tactical master-stroke, his speed of thought and deed constantly troubling 'field in the closing stages.

Four minutes later, Alton extended their lead when prop Stephen Osborne squeezed over from another rolling maul but at 27-21, Alton's lead was precarious.

So it proved to be, Barnes' quick tap this time found Alton's defence all at sea and Flett went over in the left-hand corner.

Barnes then converted magnificently from the touchline to give 'field the slenderest leads with just nine minutes remaining.

However, Alton were not to be denied - and even then, the decisive try had just a whiff of controversy about it.

Pead, O'Connor and Hugh Flanagan worked the blindside from an attacking scrum inside the 'field 22 but with the tryline beckoning, Flanagan's inside pass went loose and appeared to creep forward. However, O'Connor was on hand to gather the bouncing ball and touch down. The try was awarded and Alton, this time, managed to hold on to their lead.

Tries: Law (7'), Baker (37'), Gay (66'), Osborne (69'), O'Connor (79');
Conversions: Collins (2);
Penalty: Collins (3')

Law (Lee, 70); O'Connor, Hemmens, Richards, Spencer; Alexander, Collins (Pead, 51); Osborne, Parratt, Gay; Ford, Oliphant; Watts, Carter, Baker (Flanagan, 40')

Tries: Saunders (34'), Barnes (53'), Flett (71');
Conversions: Barnes (2);
Penalties: Barnes (14', 19', 43').

Referee: Trevor Cutler (Hampshire RURS)

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