Improved Alton Done For Pace By Free-Flowing Freemen
Sat 08 Oct 2011, 15:00
39 - 19
Alton take a step forward despite six-try beating at Old Freemen's.
Thirty-nine points and six tries to one suggest this was a mauling but Old Freemen's victory was not exactly the stroll in the school the scoreline suggests.
For sure, the old boys, playing with verve and oodles of pace, fully warranted their win in the picturesque surroundings of their Freemen's School home but for the best part of an hour they struggled to subdue an Alton side that had doggedly managed to maintain a foothold in the game.
That Alton managed to keep Freemen's to a five-point lead just before the hour-mark was almost entirely due to the trusty boot of Ed Hubbard, the stand-off landing five kicks from seven shots at goal.
But quickfire tries from blind-side flanker Seb Cox and stand-off John Ormrod snuffed out the visitors' challenge and Alton will have to wait another two weeks to try and nail that maddeningly elusive first London 3 win.
It was a much-improved overall performance from Alton. The forwards were nastier and more direct; the side as a whole strung together more sustained, more penetrating phases, although they were often panicky in possession and coughed up too much ball too easily.
Newly-returned big beasts, Will Ford and Bruce Oliphant, got stuck in merrily while half-backs Hubbard and Mark Crowther showed that they starting to gel - Crowther's delivery and tenacity at the breakdown area served his side well.
Worryingly for Alton, their wide defence was once again glaringly frail. Too often they found themselves short-staffed in defence and they simply must work on tackling lower.
As their name suggests, the Freemen played with freedom. Defensively solid, they attacked with pace, width and wit. There was plenty of grunt from the forwards when needed although Alton never allowed them to control the breakdown areas.
But whenever they threw it wide they looked likely to score and Alton didn't make them work too hard for their tries.
Unfortunately, the Old Boys undid much of their good work by conceding too many penalties in kickable areas. But they are a youthful, exuberant side and are rightfully faring well in their debut season in London 3.
It was a scruffy, disjointed opening period. Freemen's number eight Simon Daniels crashed over early doors for an early 7-3 home lead. A darting run and finish from breezy right wing Sam Rowan from a clever over-the-shoulder pass from Olli Gotto gave Freemen's their second try but another Hubbard penalty kept Alton in touch and when he slotted his third straight after the interval, the game was finely balanced at 12-9.
A frenzied period of point-scoring ping-pong started when Alton failed to control the restart, Freemen's threw it wide and full-back Gotto sauntered over, but the old boys immediately infringed from the restart and Hubbard nailed the penalty.
Cox immediately extended the home side's lead and bagged the fourth-try bonus point when he barged through some flimsy defence to score from close range but it was game on again almost immediately when Chris Pratt snaffled a stray pass and galloped over from 30 metres - a just reward for Alton's young centre, whose bustling runs more than a little dismay in Freemen's defensive ranks.
Hubbard's conversion made it 24-19 but the visitors' hopes of a turnaround were well and truly quashed when they fumbled at an attempted break-out from their twenty-two and Ormrod gleefully dashed over. The excellent Cox then notched his second try when he took an Ormrod miss-pass and simply plunged through the heart of Alton's defence.
Ormrod's late penalty put icing on the cake and though the game petered out, the decent-sized home support cared little.
Alton take a breather this weekend - a bit of time to recoup before the ever-mercurial Ellingham and Ringwood visit Anstey Park on 22 October.
Old Freemen's: Gotto; Rowan, Hutter, Wilson, Williams; Ormrod, Owens; Charalambous, Taylor, Moodie; Mitchell (Telford, 66'), Fair; Cox, Hatcher; Daniels.
Tries: Daniels (30'), Rowan (37'), Gotto (43'), Cox (48', 63'), Ormrod (58');
Conversions: Hutter, Ormrod (2);
Penalty: Ormrod (69').
Yellow card: Ormrod (24').
Alton: Ridegwell; O'Connor, Pratt, Law (Elderton 49'), Spencer; Hubbard, Crowther; Happel (Ross, 70'), Parratt, Gay (c); Greenhalgh, Oliphant; Brown (MacDonell, 70'), Gerlach, Ford.
Try: Pratt (51');
Penalties: Hubbard (12', 35', 42', 47').
Referee: Simon Matthews (London Society).