Alton Rugby Football Club

Swashbuckling Old Boys Brush Alton Aside

Sat 10 Sep 2011, 15:00

Old Wellingtonians

49 - 5



Old Wellingtonians sweep to an impressive opening-day victory over a weakened Alton side.

They don't train or have a coach but Old Wellingtonians gave Alton a right old rugby lesson in the opening half-hour of Saturday's league opener in the leafy surroundings of Epsom & Ewell.  

The old boys enjoyed a near-monopoly of possession and raced into a 25-0 lead, courtesy of tries from left wing Richard Gower, centre Elliott Freer and number eight James Simpson, with Mark Douglas putting the boot in with extra ten points.

The first half was a mismatch in every sense. Wellingtonians outpaced and overpowered their smaller, lightweight Alton counterparts and ran through the phases at will - and they threw in some swashbuckling running rugby in the process. They were often a joy to watch.

But the second half wasn't quite the procession that Alton supporters feared or the hosts wanted. Alton managed to bare their teeth after succumbing rather too meekly in the opening period though Shane Watts' solitary try, early in the second half, was probably less than they deserved.  

For the old boys, Gower and Simpson added further second-half tries as did full-back Alex Barker and the game's outstanding player, stand-off Andy Digweed.

Digweed was immaculate and he capped his performance by producing the try of the match - a show-and-go, a blur of dancing feet and an arcing 25-metre dash to the corner. Great stuff.

But it was Simpson, Douglas and hooker Jonny Carey who did most of the grunt and carried for the hard yards for Wellingtonians.  

Alton skipper Jimmy Gay suggested afterwards that it was men against boys and to some extent he was correct - many of his players were rookies who came into this game with little experience of rugby at this level. They struggled to cope with a Wellingtonians outfit who played with intensity and swagger, and were, to a man, supremely comfortable with ball in hand.

So what to make of Alton's performance? In mitigation, they were short of a half-a-dozen key squad members and consequently were forced to rehash their midfield, second- and back-row combinations. They were lightweight - they had no big ball-carriers to throw at the Wellingtonians' defensive line and were often swatted away like flies.

Unsurprisingly, Alton were often flustered and disjointed, and they creaked at the scrummage.  They coughed up far too much turnover ball at the breakdowns in the first half and simply gave Wellingtonians too much time and space.

On the plus side, they counter-rucked and won plenty of turnovers in a much-improved second period and in so doing discovered an attacking momentum that was sorely absent in the first half.

The line-outs and their sheer refusal to give up were also small positives for head coach Alun Rise to take into this week's Weybridge Vandals game.

Rise should have more players at his disposal in coming weeks and it is  unlikely that there are many teams in London 3 who could have lived with Wellingtonians in that opening half.

Tim Salmon produced a fine performance at full-back and emergency stand-off  in front of his watching father Jamie who, by one of those curious twists of rugby fate, is Old Wellingtonians' president.

It was Salmon Junior who created Alton's try when his half-break and deft off-load out of the tackle freed Watts, who scuttled over from 20 metres.  

Watts, out of position at number eight, grafted manfully and effectively for Alton, while debutant Alex Haden added some physicality to the back row. However, collectively, Alton were a distant second-best.

They will have better days in coming weeks, for sure, unless and until Alton can at least match their opponents on a physical level, it will be a hard graft.
Old Wellingtonians:

Tries: Gower (7, 45), Simpson (23, 76), Freer (32), Barker (57), Digweed (66);
Cons.: Douglas (2), Barker (2);
Pens: Douglas (13, 18).

Alton: Salmon; O'Connor, Forsyth, Law, Hemmens (Beale); Mountfield (Spencer, HT), Crowther; Happel, Parratt, Gay ©; Gerlach, Greenhalgh; Lee (Haden, HT), Carter, Watts.

Try: Watts (49).

H-T: 25-0.

Referee: Andy Morris (London Society).

Other London 3SW results:

KCS Old Boys 36 - 3 Purley John Fisher;
Old Alleynians 38 - 23 Weybridge Vandals;
Old Freemens 21 - 5 Andover;
Sandown & Shanklin 19 - 15 Old Blues;
Winchester 12 - 27 Ellingham & Ringwood.

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