Alton Rugby Football Club

Wasteful Alton Squeeze Past Dogged 'Leigh

Sat 23 Jan 2010, 14:15


13 - 6



Matt Pead's last-minute try secures a laboured victory for the league-leaders against third-placed Eastleigh

An enthralling game. Alton appeared to have it in the bag when scrum-half Matt Pead scored an 80th-minute try to give his side a seven-point lead, but the league-leaders had not reckoned on the six minutes of stoppage time allowed by referee Aubrey Collins.  
Those final six minutes were as frenzied and desperate a six minutes as Alton will have to endure this season, as Eastleigh simply pounded their line in search of the converted try that would have given them a share of the points.

Eastleigh failed, just, thanks to a stoic, all-hands-to-the-pump Alton defensive effort - wing Matt O'Connor of all people snaffling turnover ball that eventually clinched it.

Oh, how Alton laboured for this vital win - a win they clinched despite third-placed Eastleigh's - and occasionally their own - best efforts.

To say Alton were wasteful would be understating it; to say their performance was infuriatingly inconsistent would also underegg the pudding.  

At times they bristled with energy and intent, and broke the Eastleigh line for fun; on other occasions they were anxious and uncertain, their handling and passing likewise. But they were good when they had to be - notably in defence - and that ultimately was why they won the game.

Moreover, stand-off Lei Alexander was one notable success, a first among equals: his relieving boot repeatedly earned his side hard yards and his lofted diagonal kicks targeted the open side, giving his chasing men a chance at catching Eastleigh's back three in possession. It often worked too.

Overall, there was no doubting the commitment of Alton's performance - it was the execution at key moments that undermined them.

This game wasn't simply about Alton's profligacy, however. Eastleigh defended with a unity of purpose, and their forwards carried the game to Alton with some aplomb as they visibly grew in confidence in a see-sawing second half.

The visitors also took what few chances were offered them. When Russ Smith banged over his second penalty, Eastleigh led 6-5 with 14 minutes from the end and there was more than a whiff of an upset on the cards. And had referee Collins not disallowed Eastleigh's apparently legitimate 63rd-minute try from a rolling maul, Alton could have been deeper in the mire.

As it was, Alton finished powerfully and raised their game a notch or three in the closing stages: Will Ford's cool-as-you-like 71st-minute penalty restored Alton's lead and they had a Taryke van Rensburg try ruled out before Pead, courtesy of a surging drive by his forwards at a five-metre scrum, finally put the game to bed at the end of normal time.

Alton should have had the game buried early in the second half, such was their dominance in the first 50 minutes. Their approach play was often dazzling; their finishing woeful. They wasted three gilt-edged try-scoring chances either side of the interval as the final pass simply eluded them.

O'Connor's slashing diagonal break created a three-on-one but his pass went astray; van Rensburg's mazy 40-yard dash shredded the visitors' defence but the young wing spoiled it by fluffing a regulation pass to O'Connor five yards from the line; and moments later, Richard Hemmens' surging run broke the 'Leigh rearguard but he too sent a wild pass soaring into the Anstey Park crowd.  

The sound of hair being torn out on and off the pitch was almost deafening at times.

However, Alton did take one first-half chance with gusto when Sam Law took Alexander's long cut-out pass before drawing the defence and releasing van Rensburg - the wing showed good strength to force his way over in the left corner.

But Smith's penalty on the stroke of half-time trimmed Alton's lead to 5-3 - a poor return for the wealth of possession and territory the home side had enjoyed.

Alton's fluidity deserted them as the second half progressed and Eastleigh began to exert some control through the inspirational Smith and thundering performances from their back-row men Pauls Fudio and Taylor.

The visitors' brief lead was no more than they deserved for their defensive efforts, stickability and opportunism. Unfortunately for them, they were trumped by Alton's grandstand finish.

Alton: Law; O'Connor, Hemmens, Forsyth (Johns, 58), van Rensburg; Alexander, Pead; Osborne (Happel, 19), Parratt, Gay (c); Oliphant, Greenhalgh; Lee (White, 74), Carter, Ford.

Tries: van Rensburg (24), Pead (80);
Penalty: Ford (71).

Penalties: Smith (40, 61).

Referee: Aubrey Collins (Berkshire Referees)

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