Alton Felled By Blues' Second-Half Onslaught
Sat 01 Oct 2011, 15:00
5 - 36
Old Blues run in five unanswered second-half tries to condemn Alton to their fourth league loss.
Troubling times for Alton. In the first half they demonstrated that they are within a whisker of being a competitive force in London 3; in the second, they looked like prime relegation candidates. Would the real Alton stand up?
Alton head coach Alun Rise was encouraged by his side's first-half showing but clearly frustrated by their second-half collapse.
Rise was critical of his players' fitness levels, insisting that they must put in more work off the training ground if they are to compete for the full 80 minutes.
These are happier times for Old Blues, however, who are starting to find their feet in London 3 following defeats in their opening two matches.
Back-to-back wins have now steadied the ship and in the second half they began to play like a side that has enjoyed three successive promotions.
Alton, by contrast, just need a win.
It was also a happy return to Anstey Park for Old Blues' coach Simon Dear. The giant former Harlequins and England A lock has run coaching sessions at Alton in recent seasons but for years cut an imposing figure on the beat with Hampshire Police. His side certainly had Alton bang to rights after their dominant second-half display.
A blisteringly hot day - 25 degrees or more - promised open, running rugby and indeed it was a pulsating first period, with plenty of enterprise and honest grunt from both camps.
Alton had the better of the opening 40 minutes after Robbie Good's 28th-minute try - crashing over from the front of a line-out - cancelled out Hugh Wigzell's early score from a line-out catch-and-drive.
Initially sluggish, Alton produced their most sustained, cohesive rugby of the season in the second half of that opening period. They hit the gain-line at pace, enjoyed lengthy periods of possession and regularly broke Old Blues' defensive line.
But a couple of searing breaks from Alton centre Chris Pratt went unfinished, while at the other end the visitors managed to fluff a regulation five-on-three overlap.
An absorbing contest was delicately balanced at 5-5 at the break but Alton collapsed in the second period, the heat and a lack of fitness clearly taking their toll.
With a lack of fitness comes fatigue; with fatigue come basic errors and lapses in concentration and Old Blues took full advantage.
For sure, the visitors upped their game after the interval - they played with greater intensity, hit the breakdowns harder and, cannily, used the slope smartly, their long kicks putting intense pressure on a glaringly ponderous and uncertain Alton back three.
Once again, Alton found themselves up against a side comfortable with ball in hand, with breezy runners using the full width of the pitch. The visitors attacked from deep and in numbers, with supporting runners in abundance, and they also defended as a unit. It was not hard to see how Old Blues have waltzed through the Surrey leagues.
But it was two quickfire, if soft, tries, shortly after half time that knocked the stuffing out of Alton.
They were near-replicas. On both occasions scrum-half Mike Gray dinked a couple of box-kicks from attacking rucks, both occasions nippy full-back Avron Cunningham the won foot-race to the touchdown. There were big, big question-marks over Alton's defensive awareness and positioning, but this was tactically astute and simple rugby, executed well.
Gray was irrepressible and ran the show for Old Blues. Quick-footed and quick-brained, he always had an eye for the gap and the skills to find it. Alton never really coped with him.
It was his quick tap that created a try for Kobi Yeboah and the powerful wing added a second when he somehow managed to burrow over after Old Blues turned Alton over on their own line.
Yeboah also nailed a couple of conversions for a 29-5 lead. Game, set and match to the men from Motspur Park.
Cunningham was denied a hat-trick by a scything last-ditch tackle from Alton wing Matt O'Connor, the ferocity of which had many on the sidelines wincing. O'Connor was one bright spot for Alton: tenacious and tireless in defence, he also went looking for work on a day when other players might have gone missing.
But Old Blues' hooker Jan Burger then completed the scoring with a short-range try eight minutes from the end, Yeboah converting.
Alton: Ridgewell; O'Connor, Forsyth (Spencer, H-T), Pratt, Gill; Hubbard, Crowther; Ovens (Ross, 71), Parratt, Gay (c); Greenhalgh, Ford; Happel, Brown (Oliphant, H-T), Good.
Try: Good (28).
Old Blues: Cunningham; Yeboah, Sumner, Hanmer, Rothwell; Weeks, Gray; Kim, Burger, Thorpe; Gonzalez, Eaton (Moberly, 54); Day, Wigzell, Deakin.
Tries: Wigzell (9), Cunningham (46, 48), Yeboah (60, 67), Berger (71).
Cons: Yeboah (3).
Yellow card: Moberly (64).
Referee: Ian Davies (Hampshire Society).