Alton pass 1,000 points scored in league
By Steve Jenkins
Alton 84 v Romsey 13
Alton consolidated their position at the top of Hampshire 1 with yet another fine victory against 4th place Romsey in a key encounter at Anstey Park.
With Romsey having won 4 out of their past 5 games, and in difficult blustery conditions, Alton were prepared for a tougher battle than in recent weeks and took the game to their opponents immediately. Such was the respect that Alton held for Romsey, that when awarded a penalty inside 2 minutes, they chose to convert by Joe Gwyther, instead of running the ball as would have been the norm and it appeared Alton were determined to build on this first score. It was to be the first of 11 impressive kicks for Gwyther, many from difficult angles, who struck the ball brilliantly all afternoon.
Inside 4 minutes, Ryan Capes found a great running line through the Romsey defensive line, and the ever-alert George Pantrey was there to support and score his first try. 10-0.
Romsey had a short period inside the Alton half but elected to chip through on 3 occasions, rather than spinning the ball out wide, however the Alton back-line marshalled by Fran Williams at full back dealt with these attacks comfortably.
Gwyther used the swirling wind to his advantage and kicked long twice from inside his own 22 to deep in Romsey territory. The Alton forwards were soon showing their dominance in all set pieces with Romsey having no match in the scrums and mauls. Rarely did the ball come out wide to the Alton backs in the first half as Alton kept it tight, but when it did however, Brendan Sumner’s aggressive running was always a problem for Romsey. After being stopped just short of the line, Matt Selstrom scored in the corner.
A rolling maul from 15 yards out, was largely uncontested by Romsey and Capes broke off to score. The Alton pack could have perhaps marched over from the maul more often, as Romsey had no match for the forwards’ drive, but Alton chose to break off on occasion to no avail. However, “forwards win games, the backs decide by how much” and never was that truer on this afternoon with the victory almost secured after 35 minutes by the Alton pack.
After a period of Romsey pressure, Alton had infringed on 35 minutes for a high tackle and Romsey registered their first points. Instantly Alton marched back upfield, perhaps slightly aggrieved to be conceding the first points at Anstey Park since January, Sumner punched through midfield with 3 men needed to take him down, and Pantrey nipped in again to score. 32-3 at half time.
If Alton were playing a perhaps somewhat more pragmatic game in the first half, the second half was quite the opposite as Alton showed all their ambition and played an exciting, expansive brand of rugby. Backs and forwards combined seamlessly, offloading at will and with some deft skills.
Jeremy Powell, broke from half way, eventually leading to a line out on the Romsey line, and Pantrey took a quick penalty for Tom Smethurst to score after 45 minutes. Gaps were now appearing out wide in the Romsey defence with Ryan Bale scoring in the corner on 47 minutes and the inspiring Chris Gregory then offloaded to put Ollie Burden in on the other wing; 51-3. This score meant Burden had the honour of scoring Alton’s 1000th point in Hampshire 1 this season which is a remarkable achievement for the whole squad.
Another well worked lineout led to a Gregory try, followed shortly by a long Pantrey pass leading to the jinking Burden scoring again.
Romsey rallied and discovered some space of their own with 2 impressive tries in the left corner to cut the deficit to 65-13 after 65 minutes and Romsey may have rued not keeping the ball in hand more often in the first half.
But Alton were to have the last word with Pantrey nipping through to complete his hattrick, and then Burden, not to be outdone, scoring his 3rd and 4th try in the final few minutes, scything through the ever-tiring Romsey defences on the wing to close out the game. 84-13
This was an impressive performance by the whole squad and with 2 games left in Hampshire 1, Alton now lead the league by 6 points from Ellingham and Ringwood who they play in their next game away on 30th March. If Alton win this match then they will be Hampshire 1 Champions.