Hampshire RFU Plate Final
By Steve Jenkins
Fareham Heathens 31 vs Alton RFC 25
Alton won promotion to the Hampshire Premiership this season in which Fareham Heathens finished mid-table; and this final proved that Alton can survive in the higher league.
As their semi-final was the first drawn out of the hat, Heathens hosted the match in front of a large and vociferous home crowd, and they had the best possible start scoring an unconverted try straight from the kick-off; 5-0.
Shocked into action Alton immediately fought their way into the home team’s red zone, and a fine forward drive was finished off by number 8 Matt Sellstrom
, stand-off Joe Gwyther
collected the additional 2 points and Alton led 5-7.
5 minutes later Heathens were back in front when good approach work was finished off by their tight-head prop barrelling over, and a minute later one of their centres scored following similar approach work, this try was converted and at the end of the first quarter led 17-7.
For the next 50 minutes all the scoring was by Alton. Soon after the second Heathens try they were awarded a penalty when the home side collapsed the maul. Gwyther accepted the opportunity to move the score to 17-10. Within a minute of the restart kick-off he intercepted a Heathens pass near the 22-metre line and ran in unopposed to give himself an easy conversion, Alton were now level 17-17. The score remained tied until half-time with both sides testing their opposition playing hard committed rugby.
10 minutes into the second half Joe Gwyther
produced a stroke of genius, Alton had been awarded a kickable penalty for another collapsed maul. Joe instead of indicating to kick to the posts lofted a high ball out to his right-hand side, where centre Oli Fielder
collected the cross-kick and scored. Alton now led 17-22. They increased their lead to 17-25 following yet another foul play penalty, this time for a high tackle.
Alton’s vocal travelling support were now hoping that their team could hang on to their 2-score lead, but it wasn’t to be. Alton lost a player to a yellow card 10 minutes from the final whistle and the difference in numbers encouraged a Heathens’ onslaught. They scored 2 tries in 5 minutes, converting both, which put them in front by 6 points. Alton spent the rest of the match in Heathens’ half looking for a converted try but were repelled by some stout defence.
Alton are very disappointed with the result, but they should reflect that they competed for the whole game and very nearly beat a team from a league above them, and that Fareham Heathens have now won this trophy 3 times in the last 4 seasons.
A quote by Alton’s former Captain Tony Hopkin
summed up the result very succinctly. “A great learning curve today for the next steps on our journey. Even better to know that we are good enough to take them. We never lose, either we win, or we learn.”