Hubbard Kicks Alton to Swansong Victory
Sat 12 Nov 2011, 14:30
24 - 21
Departing stand-off Ed Hubbard kicks 14 points as Alton see off a resilient Andover to notch their first London 3 win.
There was no Hallelujah chorus at Anstey Park after Alton secured their first London 3 victory of the season by a whisker.
Relieved mutterings, yes, but Alton came close to blowing it, enduring an anxious final five minutes after full-back Rich Woodley's try put Andover within a score of victory.
But Alton managed to run down the clock and nail a win that has been a long time in coming.
Stand-off Ed Hubbard landed five kicks from six - 14 points in all - in his final game for the club before he moves to London 2 side Old Reigatian. Work commitments have forced the 22-year-old to relocate so ending, for now, his eleven-year stint at Alton. He will be missed.
For all their wasted chances - and there were many - Alton deserved their win. They comprehensively won the forward battle and broke the visitors' line with regularity but were extravagantly wasteful. In contrast, Andover's ability to take the few chances that came their way, allowed them to maintain a foothold in the game.
It was a hugely resilient effort by the visitors in trying circumstances, a host of late withdrawals leaving them with something of a makeshift starting 15. Had they enjoyed more possession, rather than the scraps that came from Alton's table, they would undoubtedly have got more from this game.
While they disrupted the Alton line-out to great effect and were combative in the breakdowns, they struggled in the scrummage, regularly incurring the wrath of referee Paddy Carbery for engaging early or not driving in straight. It was a testing afternoon for the All Blacks' front row.
As an aside, Carbery was simply excellent. His authority, communication and empathy - not to mention his gruff Ulster brogue - made him the stand-out figure on the park.
And Alton? They were snappier in their approach play, counter-attacked smartly and were abrasive in the scrums and breakdowns. On the down-side, they often over-elaborated and made far too many unforced errors.
You can also grumble about the line-breaks that went unsupported and the numerous try-scoring positions that were fluffed, but ultimately this was a victory built on toil and guts, rather than clinical finishing.
The first half was a game of Alton punch and Andover sucker-punch. Alton were sprightly from the kick-off and took the lead through Hubbard's third-minute penalty but Andover hit back immediately with a nicely crafted try, created by their breezy, smart centres.
Inside centre Dan Pearson slipped a tackle in midfield and weaved down the left channel before shipping the inside pass to Guy Wilkinson, Woodley knocking over the conversion from wide out.
Alton regained and extended their lead, first through John Happel's try from that good old Alton favourite, the line-out drive, and then another Hubbard penalty.
However, Alton failed adequately to deal with the restart and though lock Martin Wassell's thundering break was ended by a wonderful cover tackle from Dan Forsyth, Andover were awarded a penalty and scrum-half Kieran Jenvey tapped quickly and crossed.
Two chances, two tries and Andover had a 14-11 half-time lead.
But Alton proved that they at their most effective when they keep it simple. They abandoned the fancy stuff and just used their forwards to run hard and repeatedly at Andover and consequently took a stranglehold on the game.
Second-row Mark Greenhalgh restored Alton's lead, touching down after his angled run from deep gave him the momentum to drive over from back of a ruck.
Hubbard banged over the conversion and added two further penalties and at 24-14 that appeared to be that. But with six minutes left the visitors had a lifeline when Alton spilled the ball on the Andover 22 and a sweeping, fluid counter saw Woodley scuttle over. He converted his own try but Andover couldn't force another score and had to settle for a losing bonus point that keeps them off the bottom.
* Winchester ended Sandown and Shanklin's 100 per cent record, winning 17-13 at North Walls Park. The Islanders, who host Alton this Saturday, now hold just a two-point lead over the City side at the top of London 3.
Tries: Happel (22), Greenhalgh (51);
Penalities: Hubbard (4, 31, 56, 61).
Tries: Wilkinson (6), Kenvey (33), Woodley (74);
Conversions: Woodley (3).
Referee: Paddy Carbery (Hampshire Society).